lb was due in london this weekend and i was looking forward to an evening of wining and dining. the only issue was, i wasn’t sure where we should go to eat. see, lb is a vegequarian (a fusion of a vegetarian and pescatarian). now, it is very easy if you are firmly in one camp i.e. vegetarian or vegan or omnivore because that makes it easy to pick a place to eat. i was not aware of the rules that surround vegequarians, for instance my more militant vegetarian friends would not tolerate going to an omnivore restaurant even if there are lots of vegetarian friendly options. but i am not sure whether the same is applicable to a vegequarian. so i did what i do best. i started a gmail conversation on potential choices for dinner. our shortlist looked a bit like this. vanilla black, a number of small plate and tapas places including the salt yard, dehesa and the russell norman polpo etc variety and for good measure the indian trishna. luckily for me lb picked dehesa which has been on my list of places to try for a long long time. i think it was the courgette flowers with monte enebro and honey that decided for us.
the fluidity of our plans meant that we couldn’t reserve beforehand which actually turned out fine as we managed to have flat white’s at monmouth in covent garden, a glass of a really fruity and dark chocolate tempranillo with a plate of heat blistered and salt flecked padrón peppers at fernandez and wells in soho prior to a lovely and lengthy dinner at dehesa. sadly for me, i scalded my tongue because the peppers were served piping hot rather than on account of the charming spanish observation of "os pementos de padrón, uns pican e outros non" (padrón peppers, some are hot and some are not).
we made our way to dehesa around quarter to nine when they called us to tell us that a table had become available. our evening started with selecting a wine, a choice that i left to lb who gave me lots of tasting notes to mull over. we tried three red wines all three of which we turned down because they were too oaky. we then had to take our chances AN2 anima negra which actually turned out to be very nice. i loved the wide and delicate wine glasses that we drank from. we were pleased with how helpful the staff was and how they happily accommodated our wine tasting.
turning to the food, from the bar snacks we picked the quail’s eggs and cresentine with roasted pumpkin, goats curd and pistachio. from the fish tapas we picked the stone bass carpacio with smoked cod roe, tropea onion, preserved lemon and citrus dressing and finally from the vegetable tapas we settled on the courgette flowers with monte enebro and honey, crispy polenta with gorgonzola, mascarpone, caramelised red onions and oven dried tomatoes and the ubiquitous patatas fritas with romesco sauce and alioli.
quail’s eggs, perfectly boiled with their distinct speckled shells half intact came with a smoked paprika salt. lb and i peeled the remaining shell, rolled the egg in the salt and ate them slowly. i usually eat quail’s egg raw on top tartare or deep fried in which case the yolks are just slightly soft. the hard boiled yolk here was smooth and was lifted by the smoky salt.
|stone bass carpaccio with smoked cod roe, tropea onion|
preserved lemon and citrus dressing
my favourite of the night was the stone bass carpaccio which was wafer thin slices of a mild white fish elevated with citrus notes. my trepidation of the red onion was unfounded as the very finely sliced tropea onion had little sting. instead it provided texture. a sprightly garnish of red amaranth leaves were a strong element of colour.
the courgette flowers were encased in a thin crisp of batter that was light like tempura. i ate the long stalk of courgette and the bud before reaching the melting centre of monte enebro cheese. amongst the various loves of my life is the combination of goats cheese and honey. and when you get the combination of the two with deep fried courgette there really is nothing to complain about.
the crispy polenta was a colourful affair with tart and sharp flavours dulled by smooth and sweet notes. the mascarpone took the edge off the gorgonzola and the oven dried tomatoes were tart against the sweetness of the caramelised red onions. the three cresentine sat on a slab of polished wood which brought out the earthy tones of the pumpkin and pistachio. once against pumpkin and goats curd is a classic combination.
the only disappointment for us that night was the patatas fritas. whilst i have to say that the potatoes were perfectly done- a crisp exterior with a fluffy centre, it was a bit of an anticlimax against the sophistication of all the other tapas. even the goodness of the romesco sauce and alioli could not rescue the perfect fries. we’ll be steering clear next time...
and as if all this eating and drinking was not enough, lb and i paid the bill and went in search of a sweet ending to our evening. we did not manage to make it much further than ottolenghi’s nopi which is just down the road. there we concluded our evening on a warm and creamy vanilla rice pudding with rose water and pistachio’s and a roasted peanut ice-cream with chocolate sauce.