Sunday, 30 January 2011

[Restaurant - Scottish] Pain for Pleasure; Boisdale of Belgravia

Location - Belgravia, London [UK]
What is the sign of a great restaurant? An eclectic and diverse menu? Or a selection of dishes steeped in tradition and authenticity? Is it the service, ambience and pleasant food? Or the fact that you actually go through pain just for the experience? If so, I am happy to be labelled as an S&M afficionado whilst dining at Boisdale. The whips and chains are merely optional in this instance. For dining at Boisdale is a painfully pleasant experience - both economically, as well as occasionally physically through over-indulgence.

In what has quickly become a bit of a tradition, the visiting of Boisdale is a sparse but thoroughly enjoyed experience - sparse as there is only so much money at my disposition within a year to be able to eat here. Which is where the predominance of the pain comes into the discussion of the experience of Boisdale. Cheap, it certainly is not. I would perhaps say as well, for value, it is not one of the more sensible choice. With regards to experience though, few of the restaurants I have eaten at can beat it though. And for me, my first experience here, in terms of foodgasm, was the best. And yes, I have said "experience" 5 times in the first couple of paragraphs. Repetitititions, commence!

~ Starter ~
- Venison Carpaccio Salad [1st Time]

My first choice was not available, or perhaps the waiter thought I could stand to lose some weight so I was served the above instead. Wow. Raw slices of venison served on a bed of rocket with some walnuts I believe. Meat makes rabbit-food fun! Quite an enjoyable "salad", I remember something about the taste from the venison as well, but I'd be lying if I pretended now to remember what. It was lovely regardless.

- Rabbit Roulade [December 2010]

As will be mentioned in a future post - yes, I can tell the future - I was not terribly impressed with the roulade/terrine, though this would probably have more to do with my expectations of what this dish entails, rather than outright execution. I just seem to expect more in taste from a minced mix of game and bacon and hams and other omnomnommy foods, but all I get back is. Well. Minced meat. Like a cold cured ham. It was nice, but nothing more really. The livers were disgusting but that's because I do not understand the pleasure of eating organs. Haggis is ok, as its mixed up with enough other organs, but, yeah. I am not of the organs.

- Rosary Goat's Cheese, Pear & Something Salad [28/01/2011]

Pining forever for that Venison Carpaccio salad that I had on my visit to Boisdale, I thought this dish would have to suffice, as it combined some sort of animal name with the word "salad". After all, isn't any salad better when some sort of meat or fat is added to it?! No? Just me then? Heathens. Overall it was pleasant, not a complex salad by any means - I was a bit miffed with the paucity of goat's cheese sprinkled around, though I suppose it's not called "Goat's cheese with a sprinkling of salad" for a reason. As that'd perhaps be less healthy. Pfft, Health & Safety party crashers. I particularly liked the sweetness brought in by the pear and pickled walnut, that served to combine well with the bitter leaves, though the dressing was a bit too sharp for my liking.

A nice salad in the end, just, maybe, too healthy for me. I want decadence. EVERYWHERE.

~ Main Course ~
- Grilled Mutton Fillet [1st Time]

What stood about about this dish so much that I can remember it vividly - yes, there is such a dearth of thought processed in my mind that I can remember specifically what something tasted like 2-3 years ago - to this day? Was it the fact the mutton portion, though desperately tiny, melted in the mouth like it was actually mutton flavoured butter [mmmmm]? No. Was it the glazed carrots, which makes everything right with the world as carrots of any shape and form are divine anyway? No. It was the mashed potato. Yes. Mashed Potato. That I can remember years on. Despite literally being a spit of a portion [I'm trademarking that measure], it was so amazingly creamy and amazing and z0mg and that is all.

The rest of that dish has obviously been described, but, it was frankly amazing, if not enough to fill my voracious appetite.

- Fillet Steak with Black Truffle Shavings [January 2010]

Not much really stood out from this dish - I think I chose it primarily for the carrots. I would do anything for glazed carrots. A-N-Y Thing ;). Otherwise nothing really stands out; there was a lot of truffle which maybe overpowered the steak slightly, and the cost. That's as far as I can remember. Blast the internet for destroying my ability to think.

- Lamb & Wild Mushroom Shepherd's Pie [I think] [December 2010]

Yah, rly. Shepherd's Pie. Mind you, it was served in a bucket. I would have to obviously moderate and not complain of portion size. It was otherwise as comforting as it sounds, and as normal as it sounds - nicely executed, but in the end nothing overly complicated to entice or spice up.

- Braised Oxtail with Parsnip Puree [28/01/2011]

Opting for something different to the usual round of slab of meat, or minced slab of meat, I decided to try a strange cut of meat this time. Rigorously meat either way! Keeps my friends list Hippy-free, and me, Happy ^-^

Whilst a simple dish and not offering any real surprises, there was a particular highlight. The Copper serving pot was. Awesome. Oh, the food was ok. *Sigh*

Again, impartial opining abound, the Parsnip Puree' was worth of particular mention - it was delightfully light, not overly sweet and had a nice, slightly grainy texture. I really could not have had enough of the puree' - it tasted simple, with very little added. It combined well with the sauce, but it is of little importance, as I would have consumed a full trough of it. The oxtail was not bad either, considering, well. It's tail. What I initially over-excitedly perceived to be a smoked taste to the meat, was quickly quashed when I realised it was a lardon. On ignoring this fact however I just relegated it to smoked-meat taste and enjoyed away. I stopped myself from consuming the full portion, as I knew that I would not compromise my dessert. And I didn't want to ask for a doggy bag. It would feel wrong.

Another nice dish, though perhaps with little stand out features, other than that parsnip. Nom.

~ Dessert ~
- Pear and Something [maybe Blackberry?] Crumble [1st Time]

Best Dessert I had EVER had at Boisdale. Crumble is crumble, I made it Home Economics class in school when I was a couple of months old. However, this crumble was divine - good amount of oatey crumble, and an extremely fragrant something and something filling. I remember it was different. And fragrant. And fruity. And quite a dashing. Maybe a bit precarious. You still believing this? ^_^. The requisite addition of the cream only added to this, instead of dousing and covering the combination of flavours. Despite the heat of the dish setting my face aflame - that was quickly doused out with a handy fire extinguisher - one of my favourite desserts, evar.

- Rhubarb Something, maybe a crumble [January 2010]

This. Was a disappointment. For me, a dessert has lately become the course I look forward to the most. It is the least healthy, and therefore the best. And, from what I can remember it was a tower of extremely hard pastry and quite sour rhubarb with some cream here and there. I had never at this point had rhubarb, so if that is what can be expected, I am not a fan. The hard pastry made it particularly difficult to eat without looking like a 5 year old trying to eat with their face. Unimpressed, especially so as I think the dessert I had wanted was unavailable. Bah to joo.

- Some Crumble again [December 2010]

Yes, I am a crumblephile. I even tried ordering an Atholl Brose cocktail which is basically a crumble in liquid form, just without the fruit. But they had run out of something. Anyway, not one of their best efforts, but still reasonable - not enough oats, which were also a bit dry, and the fruit filling was nice but nothing exceptional. Not like the first one I had....


Ok, enough drooling. So yeah, an ok Crumble.

- Chilled Bread & Butter Brulee with Clotted Cream [28/01/2011]

This dessert was essentially forced onto me against my will, kicking and screaming, if only within my head. It is a lonely place in there. For just before the turn of the year, the dessert menu was all kinds of epic, with a Whiskey & Honey Parfait and a Lemon & Olive oil cake and foodcoma.

Then I woke up on January 1st and it was replaced with Tea Brulee's and Bread & Butter Pudding. And Crumble. o_o


Crumble it is. Damnit. No, SOMETHING NEW. But, Bread & Butter? Seriously? How is Hovis going to tempt me with a dessert? Nevermind. I am obviously of a very open mind. So for the sake of not being labelled a Crumbleist, the Bread & Butter Brulee' seemed the most tempting. And when receiving it, well, err. How is it a brulee'? Such things only trouble me momentarily before I bury my face much to the horrified gasps of those around. How can it be summed up. Well, it wasn't a brulee' from what I know them to be in my limited experience. And on its own, it was enjoyable, if rather unexciting - a lightly sweet cream on a slightly tough puff-pastry base. However, matters greatly improved with a) the clotted cream, and b) the toasted almonds.

The almonds essentially made this dessert, adding a nice crunch, and more importantly, a lovely toasted earthiness to the dessert. Without the almonds it may have been a bit forgettable. And as desserts are more important bar nothing to me, it would have shattered my perception of reality as I knew it if that's what I had had. The almonds saved the day though.

- Whiskey & Prune Cake with Home-made Custard [30/06/2011]

Following on from the event that has irrevocably changed my life - the introduction of Sake' to my being - it was quickly decided that the couple of milligrams of food that were served therein were unsubstantial and would need some further bolstering. Boisdale it is! It's close proximity was a welcome factor in the decision, as well as the premise of the Cigar Terrace. Unfortunately, that was not enjoy too much as the scarcity of food/copiousness of sake' within my stomach had conspired with the Smatt's Rum & Cigar to m ake me feel rather precariously vile, so a dessert was required post haste.

Yet in another move to expand my gastronomic horizons, within the confines of the Boisdale menu, I decided to go for the least appealing dessert to me, which is to say, one I would not typically go for. It would make sense why. Whilst a generous helping, nothing really stood out from the cake - no particular note of whisky or prune, or anything for that matter. It was just a nice sponge cake with a nice custard base. The almonds didn't punctuate through the dish like the previous dessert had done, and whilst the custard was pleasant, there was not enough to drown in. Which would have been nicer. The dessert wine was truly decadent though - it gave me diabetes, but it was a wonderfully refined sweetness, the drink itself being particularly thick, as it was obviously an elixir rather than a wine. Combined well with the dessert.

Overall, perhaps a disappointing dessert, but it achieved what I sought it to do. Next time I may just pine for what I truly covet. Unless it's a crumble. Or I'll just have two desserts.

~ Drinks ~
- Mojito [1st Time]

Not a spectacular Mojito by any means, rather rudimentary, but it wasn't bothersome. Meh.

- Illusion Cocktail [28/01/2011]

Well there's the problem - they served me a pre-drunk cocktail. Oh wait, that's the illusion, makes sense!

Ok, I was too slow on the camera trigger and only pictured the cocktail after its consumption. I know, it is a hard thing to do, living without that picture. It was pretty when served though with a green and yellow separate layer near the bottom of the drink. I was denied my Atholl Brose, YET AGAIN due to a lack of oats - in a Scottish restaurant. Obviously oats are a breed of grain unobtainable from anywhere else ever. Hmph. Anyway, this cocktail would have to do - basically sounded like a Piña Colada with a hint of Melon. And so it turned out.

That is it really - a light Piña Colada with a slight hint of melon afforded by the Midori. It was lovely though. But I'm going to pout something fierce if my Atholl Brose is denied to me a third time.


So overall, Boisdale is a restaurant that to me, and I think my fellow compatriots of pain, draws mainly through the experience rather than the outright face-melting quality of the food. Face-melting that is certainly provided by the expenditure, which seems to be climbing in an upward spiral of uncontrollable z0mgness. I must concur with one critic on one of the review sites that commented on the authenticity of the "Scottishness" of this restaurant, listing off a flurry of unpronouncables - it just seems to be primarily standard fare British food, with some whiskey and salmon thrown in here and there. That's what I wish I could try, it would just add so much more. To my waist. And thighs. And I don't care, just as long as it's different.

The visit in December 2010 was particularly memorable - in a move to rival the French & Italian gluttony [in a good way! And I am Half-Italian, I am allowed to self-deprecate], our dining experience lasted around 5 hours from recollection; this involved the main dinner, moving onto the Cigar terrace to attempt to smoke some frozen solid cigars. And then we returned downstairs for dessert. A fork lift would have made a more ideal means of transport back home. Oh, and a personal accountant for the final tally.

28th January 2011 - Yet another pleasant visit, and quite a long one again, though not to the extent of the previous 5 hours. Only 3 hours this time around. Again, the service, primarily on the Cigar terrace were excellent, apart from a minor Faux Pas that had a Waiter tell Huzaifah that the Venison Pie had no Pork in it. Only to be packed with lardons. I hear her head will be presented to him on a stake next time. Otherwise, it was a standard fare Boisedale trip - no great excitement in the menu, just good quality food, terrible "Lalalala, I can't see the bill Lalalalal" Pricing, and a pleasant overall experience.

Good thing it's only a bi-annual affair or so, otherwise I would maybe have to find other measures of pain for the money O_o

Boisdale on Urbanspoon
[Yarrr, I be selling out]

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