Sometimes the only thing that will do when one is stressed is some coddling, charm and civility. So where does one turn but a 5 star hotel for lunch.The best part of dining in London is getting to try Michelin starred restaurants. Michelin doesn't bother with Australia so whilst Tetsuya's would be worthy of a Michelin star, he remains untouched with the fairy wand. So now is my chance to consume as many Michelin stars as possible. Housed in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel at Hyde Park London, never a shabby place to stay, Foliage has 1 Michelin star. This lunchtime Blythe and I are battling traffic congestion due to two tube lines being closed down and numerous roadworks near by. In fact we're half an hour late for our booking and when we finally get there frantic and exhausted, we feel like we've really "earnt" our meal in effort.
We're rewarded by broad smiles, soft welcomes and soothing tones. Foliage is a small room with enormous windows that offer a lovely view of Hyde Park, up close and personal. Guests are welcomed by not 3 but 4 courses. And for a price that's an absolute steal in what can be a criminally expensive city £29. Yes you read right, £29 for lunch.
The menu has 4 choices which is generous and all of them call out in some way. We finally decide on some dishes after a little deliberation. We're given bread, a choice of white, sourdough or walnut with salted and unsalted butter (walnut the clear winner, singing with walnut flavour through the copious amount of chunks).
Amuse Bouche: Chive Vichyssoise
We're then bestowed with our Amuse Bouche, a Chive Vichyssoise. It's creamy and smooth with a light mascarpone quenelle floating in the centre. A delicious start.
Starter: crab, mango, cucumber and coriander
Our starters then arrive, mine was the crab, mango, cucumber and coriander. The crab meat is delicate and sweet, the thing mango slices swirled on the plate with cucumber flavoured pasta and coriander sprigs. It all works beautifully together, never overwhelming the delicate crab. There are two delicious fried crab balls to give an alternate texture and taste.
Starter: Foie gras, beetroot, ginger bread and pecans
Blythe's starter, a Foie gras, beetroot, ginger bread and pecans cleverly resembles rhubarb stalks. I do like Foie gras although sometimes I find it too strong. Not in this case, it's beautifully balanced and beetroot goes wonderfully with the foie gras mousse. There is also a ball of foie gras rolled in pistachios which is also wonderful with the walnut bread which is thoughtfully topped up for us.
Intermediate: Scallops, squid ink, orzo, green almonds
After a brief rest our Intermediates arrive, Scallops, squid ink, orzo, green almonds topped with generous flakes of gold leaf. The scallops are seared on the outside and sliced in half, which is one of my pet dislikes. I love the texture of a fat juicy scallop. But despite this it is a great dish, full of flavour, the squid ink giving the orzo an unusual taste along with the clouds of creamy emulsion.
Intermediate: Sweetbreads, glazed leeks, morels and salted peanuts
The other Intermediate: Sweetbreads, glazed leeks, morels and salted peanuts reminds me of that hilarious scene in Ferris Beuller's Day Off where Ferris orders Sweetbreads, only to find out that they are Pancreas. If he had tried this dish, he would have swallowed without hesitation. The sweetbreads are wonderfully soft and perfectly paired with the leeks and heavenly morels.
Main: Duck, peach and edive tatin, cep puree and thyme
We wait a little longer for our mains but they are worth it. In fact, if we thought that the starters and Intermediates were good, they are about to be surpassed by the mains. My main, the Duck, peach and edive tatin, cep puree and thyme is tender juicy morsels of pink centered duck complemented by a sweetish peach tart tatin and baby salad. It's harmony and ecstasy everything in between.
Main: Smoked guinea fowl, truffle polenta, white asparagus and lemongrass
The second main has me quietly moaning from pleasure, the Smoked guinea fowl, truffle polenta, white asparagus and lemongrass is an unusual but perfectly balanced combination, the guinea fowl so, so, so tender while the truffle polenta tastes of real truffle, not that bizarre truffle oil stuff, so heady and beautiful. The white asparagus giving the creaminess a little break. I have to be torn away from this dish.
Dessert: Milk chocolate, thyme anglaise, olive oil ice cream
The first dessert, a most unusual but deliriously good combination of milk chocolate pudding in a delicate milk chocolate cup. And because I know you're curious about it, the olive oil ice cream is indeed olive oil-y in flavour but ice cream in texture. Interesting, although I don't know if I'd order a scoop of it on its own.
Dessert: Calvados souffle, green apple iced parfait, sea salt caramel
The calvados souffle is a slender glass of risen souffle redolent with calvados and green apples, deliciously sweet and light as a souffle should be. The striped sea salt caramel is intensely salty and sweet, the green apple iced parfait is thrillingly and chillingly intensely flavoured.
Vanilla Pannacotta, strawberry sorbet, buttermilk mousse and Elderflower
And because we are the luckiest diners in all of London today, we're given a complimentary dessert, the Vanilla Pannacotta, strawberry sorbet, buttermilk mousse and Elderflower, a dessert we'd seen sweeping past us earlier as we followed its journey to a neighbouring table craning our necks the whole time. It's a definite wow dessert in looks and taste, the thick vanilla pannacotta sitting at the bottom of the martini glass topped with finely diced marinated strawberries. Then on top lies a disc of thin white chocolate topped with the creamy, light buttermilk mousse and elderflower and a quenelle of strawberry sorbet, fresh, light and flavoursome.
The chocolates, rich and dark are gorgeous. The rectangular chocolate is given a drop of syrupy balsamic from a dropper at the table. It's a fittingly delicious end to the meal. We leave feeling light as air and like not a care in the world. If only we could live here...
Foliage at the Mandarin Oriental
66 Knightsbridge London SW1X 7LA, United Kingdom
7pm-10:30pm Monday-Saturday and 7pm-10pm Sunday