Thursday, 8 September 2011

[Restaurant - Mauritian] Matriotic Duties; Seaport of Marylebone

Location - Marylebone, London [UK]

Decisions, decisions. How I dislike decisions. As much in recent times, I have slowly opened my mind, climbing out of my slight narrow-minded reluctance to stray too far from the norm on certain topics, leading myself to be more receptive to life's choices. This has come however, at a total sacrifice of my ability to decide, as now any decision is wrought with the provisional acceptance of any of a number of presented possibilities. I am not a teenage girl, I just am that indecisive. 

This was a scenario that repeated itself in my country of upbringing in Saudi Arabia, predominantly when the decision to be made was for the choice of dinner. Having an eclectic mix of possibilities, and eager to stray out of the normal succession of typical restaurants, choice was plentiful. However, the starting point was hideously difficult to choose. Particularly when the co-diners were equally as indecisive. Or rather, unwilling to relent the norm, and struggling for decisions therein. It was a ruthlessly irritating occurrence, resulting in plenty of aimless ambling on the streets, burning the petrol away. At 6p a litre however, it was barely a consideration. The growing hunger, was. There is no such luxury in London, a town many times larger than Jeddah, with a delirious number of establishments, and everything being priced to be within the touch of a Sovereign Prince. And no one else. This, a situation that plagues many a weekly decision for outings. However, with the veritable choice available, and some "must tries" short-listed, there are usually circumstances were potluck can be employed.  

With an upcoming Sake Tasting event on the horizon, and no sign of a provided dinner, I would have to seek an establishment to douse the alcohol and give it something to dissolve, other than myself. So, naturally, consult the short-list? Except the short-list is several hundred restaurants long. Ah. How the hell, to narrow down such a considered "short" list. Well, I had decided, with the absolutely preposterous couple of months of gorging barely subsiding, perhaps a locale within a decent walking range would be ideal. One criteria down. Since I walked the length of Park Lane the day before this previewed dinner, that only left me with a choice of still several hundred restaurants. Perhaps somewhere reasonably priced. Near the Japanese Embassy, surrounded by Park Lane, Knightsbridge and Piccadilly? Not even the force could help me there, lest I aim for...*shivers* Edgware Road. Or perhaps not one of the restaurants that I had envisioned would be George-safe, thus meaning more unique restaurants can be sampled rather than returning to a scene. 

These criterion accomplished nothing, though out of the blue, I had fallen on one of the short-listed. Ever having found a Mauritian restaurant, which actually met several of these facetious criteria, I had wondered. Just what is Mauritian cuisine?! Sure, I've been several times, and certainly my mother has made several examples. Nothing seemed distinctly national though, and the online menu did not release that notion either. However, perhaps I owed it to discovering the cuisine of one half of my nationality or some other weak argument, but it was decided. Seaport would feed me. Though with a missing Dessert menu, I would need a backup plan. Just for dessert. The evening beforehand I ensured places would be available, and checked up on a nearby outlet for emergency desserts. The scene was set. 

~ Starters ~
Aubergine de Monsieur George
Having studied the online menu religiously, as I do with all the eateries I sample, I arrived to find the object of my desire was missing. With all the availabilities on the menu looking largely identical, my indecisive streak revelled. With the sake demanding its supply of food, I made haste, and rather than make much exploratory gains, went for an item that appealed, and also had a bonus of vegetables. It also had goat's cheese. Decision consolidated. The dish from memory, was composed of aubergines topped with goat's cheese and grilled scallops, in a yoghurt and honey sauce. Sounded intriguing and different enough I thought. Not much of a sense of adventure I suppose but with fish not generally being my trait [though of late that would not seem the case], and the number of times I have eaten scallops amounting to less than the digits of a hand, I generally feel contented with a mission statement satisfied. 

Certainly it would seem it was an exotic dish, with the aeons required to get the waiters' attention translating into similar aeons to receive the food. Bored of staring at a mirror wall and the disgusting sight within, it did eventually arrive. The entire geological feature that it was. Portions are certainly not meagre, maybe a Mauritian thing, as the food amounts there at least, trouble the islands' floatation. I sampled the sauce first, the idea of a yoghurt and honey base seeming tantalising, but in execution. Not living up to my hopes and dreams of a breakfast sauce, being curiously bland. Straight for the goat's cheese and no qualms there, its splendid, and displayed in industrial amounts on the plate. I could have just subsisted on that but there were other components unfortunately, so onto the scallops. Which again, were rather inoffensive - beyond a slight taste of the char, there was not much suffused flavour. Perhaps a combination of everything would improve matters, it did, but only to a degree. The goat's cheese added its saltiness and acidic tang, which duly perked up the aubergine and scallops, but it was the sauce that continued to disappoint. It was slightly creamy, but beyond that, it did not provide the decadence I had expected. There was also a curious series of temperature anomalies on the plate, with the sauce being fresh from a nearby magma flow whereas the scallops were lukewarm, and the aubergines tepid. Odd. 

Not that it stopped me as the concoction was swiftly devoured. Saving the goat's cheese for last.

~ Mains ~
- La Croute de Pecheur

Much in repetition of the starters, the trawling of the menu on the restaurant website threw up a similar dilemma, of everything appearing largely the same, differing only in name. Again, in a denouncing of originality I went for what appealed. It was contained in a Puff-pastry. So it certainly appealed. Despite pastries being bad. On arrival, I was confronted by yet another gargantuan serving, offsetting the gravitational balance of the earth, or at least the imbalanced table would lead to believe. This dish was rather rudimentary in that it contained several types of fish, a shrimp, scallops, "contained" in a puff-pastry and all doused with a lobster sauce. 

So as per previously, I started with the sauce. Which again curiously, was almost devoid of taste, beyond slightly creamy. Which was really most disappointing, as it would have added a great deal of substance. I feared the fish would be as with the last dish, lacking a supporting base sauce to infuse flavour, and sadly it is what turned out again. Whilst the fish, solitary shrimp and scallop were all pleasant in their own right, they were just rather bland, tasting nothing more than of their essence, and even in that case, not overtly aromatically so. The puff-pastry was as would be expected, and in being a pastry, it was thus awesome. Also rather easily the most interesting part of the dish, absorbing what little flavour was in the sauce and making for a comforting bit as only a saturated pastry can. As such, the pastry was rather hurriedly also destroyed, choosing to leave some fish behind despite possibly being able to finish it. I did still have dessert to go. Though I was unsure at this point. For a lobster sauce, what was provided was completely devoid of the sweet and light aroma of what is expected of a rich lobster-based sauce; it was also curiously rather a pale yellow, rather than the usual light pink. Perhaps it was omitted, which is a shame, as without this foundation the fish portion of the dish were left with minimal chance to absorb or promote their flavour. 

~ Drinks ~
- Mauritian Twist

Initially denied the drink for some reason - I think waiters struggle to disguise their profound laziness when stating that a cocktail "is not available". Of course it isn't, it needs to be made - it was later provided. And whilst I had only seen the price at a glance, its arrival was slightly amusing. The cocktail was more fruit than drink, by a long shot - perhaps a sign of economising, but I prefer to be a realist. The way I see it, I got my dessert, as there was enough fruit there to count as one. Though back to actual reality, the drink was not worth the cost, beyond the obvious restricted provision of actual drink. Tasting no more than a lightly alcoholic coconut-flavoured rum with a hint of "bubble gum", I am not sure why I ordered it. 

At least the fruit would give me some sustenance in the perpetual wait for the starter. 


Dinner was done, disappointments were had, and I was no clearer on the identity of Mauritian cuisine. For all its bare-boned simplicity of the restaurant, with its straightforward aesthetics and menus, it was an unfortunate cause that this trait should have passed on down to the food. Perhaps ingredients were economised, or perhaps not, but I was left generally unmoved by the dishes I had ordered. What promised to be rich, decadent swaddles of fish supported by a rich creamy base of a sauce, taking on its aroma, provided little of such, beyond some token creamy hints. The fish in the cases of each were also disappointingly anodyne, not offending, yet not inspiring either. This despite an overzealous patron at the table next door rather over-emphatically expressing his undying love of this restaurant to his partner. They were certainly also getting far more prompt service than I, perhaps due to the fact that they seemed to be ordering every one of the dishes coming out of the kitchen.

Disappointment was also to be had with the diversity of the menu, providing rather generic dishes to the exotic defining dishes I was somehow expecting of my Indian Ocean country of [half] provenance. Yet, I do not actually have a clue beyond the ubiquitous Indian/Chinese/French -influenced dishes that constitute to Mauritian cuisine. There was solace though, in the fact that the portions were beyond generous. They were intimidating. Yet despite that fact, and ignoring the inclusion of the goat's cheese in the first dish, the portions unfortunately did stop me from consuming them in their entirety. Wait, no dessert?! No, no dessert. Yet again I was met with a choice that did not inspire, with the usual list of "defaults" forming the availabilities, and with their "special" being a Creme Brulee. That is not special, and no dessert was to be had. Not here at least, and time was of the essence with the relaxed service and time ticking away from my backup plan. 

So I departed, unmoved, but satisfied by volume, if not by quality [or price - silly cocktail], and not enlightened on Mauritian cuisine. What I did achieve though was a decision. To go have dessert a couple doors down. You win some. 

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