Everything Is Nice

Beating the nice nice nice thing to death (with fluffy pillows)

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The Chancery

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There was an article in the paper last week about the increasing popularity of vegetarian restaurants in UK as well as increased number of “meat-reducers”. In particular, they talk to the head chef of Vanilla Black and mention that “between 50% and 60% of its clientele are meat-eaters”. Now, I’ve eaten at Vanilla Black and very nice it was too but the cynic in me wonders if most of that 50%-60% consists of blokes taking their birds out for dinner. Because yes, although it pains me to type it, I am a meat-reducer; this is the inevitable consequence of being married to a vegetarian (well, technically a pescatarian). This means that usually the only place I get to eat meat is restaurants so I was pleased that last night we went not to Vanilla Back but right next door to The Chancery.

Actually, our original choice had been The Terrace. Did you know there was a Caribbean restaurant in Lincoln’s Inn Fields? I didn’t but unfortunately its kitchen closed at eight. This was too late for us because we were at an Iain Sinclair talk at Somerset House beforehand. This was part of a series of talks and films to coincide with Bill Fontana’s River Sounding installation in the lightwells and tunnels around and beneath the courtyard. If you happen to be going passed it is worth popping in because it is a transportive experience and just the exploration of this usually unseen space is worthwhile. As for Sinclair, he is someone I’ve always admired rather than actively liked but he is a far more engaging speaker than he is a writer. His discursive style is perfectly suited to addressing a roomful of engaged punters.

Then it was a short walk up Fleet Street and Chancery Lane to The Chancery which is a bit of a stark prospect from outside. The area is Lawyer Central and there was an unmistakably corporate feel to the decor and clientele. We had been worried about this possibility in advance but there was enough warmth in the lighting and the staff to make it welcoming. In fact, the service was the opposite of the fussy, high pressure waiting I had feared, top marks for mixing attentive service with a relaxed atmosphere.

Inevitably there was an amuse bloody bouche and inevitably it was orange soup in a small glass bowl. This time it was butternut and very nice it was too but I could have done with a spoon, rather than being left to slurp it. Then, to start properly, I almost went for the aubergine, basil and mozarella schnitzel – vegetarian indoctorination – but then decided on the pressed smoked haddock. This was essentially a terrine of haddock, potato and leek with an unadvertised but entirely welcome trio of soft boiled quails eggs and a drizzle of hollandaise. N stayed with the ocean for a fluffily delicious tian of crab, crayfish and avocado. Two small problems just took the shine off them though: my potatoes were just on the raw side of al dente and N’s penultimate mouthful contained a small chunk of shell.

Nothing took the shine off the mains though. Despite me protestations about being a poor, hard done by meat-reducer I actually spent the weekend gorging on lamb and beef. I’m sure my colon will thank me later. So, my urge for red meat sated, I did something I never do: I ordered the chicken. This came as a substantial little tower of peas, braised gem and dark meat surrounded by battlements of gnocci. On top sat two cuts of white meat, the skin perfectly crisp, and round it all a moat of truffle jus. It was just absolutely faultless. It was similarly coastal on the other side of the table with roast halibut rising out of a foamy sea of tomato and mussel veloute. I didn’t try it, I’m not sure I would have been allowed so jealously was it guarded.

Let’s skip over desserts because that’s what we should have done. Not because they were bad, although they were both much too sweet, but because we didn’t need them at all. What we did need – to our surprise – was a quite startling glass of muscat with really vivid violet tones which perked us up and salvaged this stage of the meal.

£34 a head for three courses (although this was another Taste London restaurant and hence we paid that for two) with another £30 for service, a lovely glass of Sauvignon Blanc, an okay glass of rose and that muscat.

Written by Martin

5 May 2010 at 13:35