Come the rainy Wednesday night in question, there I was with my lipstick on about to waltz across the road to meet Petra and I suddenly thought to myself 'I'll just check my booking confirmation' and would you believe it (yes) I had only gone and booked our table for the previous day instead (palm, forehead, slap).
From my vantage point across the road I called the maitre d' and made a humble apology. I asked did she please by any chance have another table available that day? She told me that no unfortunately not until much later in the evening but they did a couple of spaces at the bar that are kept unreserved for walk ins. 'Perfect' I said 'see you in four seconds'.
Upon entering the cosy and bustling brasserie the very same maitre d' met Petra and I (or did she meet Petra and Me?) and was about to show us to our seat at the bar when she said actually do you know what, there were two spaces left at the kitchen table downstairs and would we rather sit there instead? Yes! Yes please.
She lead us through the cosy main brasserie and down a wide flight of stairs, through a velvet curtain and past a glass cabinet of slowly smoking meats into the peace and quiet of the kitchen. No kitchen nightmares here! The atmosphere was one of quiet concentration and respectful hush. Petra and I grabbed a bar stool each, ordered a bottle of lovely Sauvingon and settled down to watch the show.
This was the first time I had glimpsed what goes on inside a real restaurant kitchen and I was fascinated! It really ran like clockwork - each chef was completely absorbed in their individual task but somehow, when it was time to assemble a dish, everything magically came together. One chef would squirt a sauce from a little plastic bottle and spread it across the plate while another would set a little juicy piece of meat on top before a third finally swooped down in just in time to curl a ribbon of spring onion onto the plate as a finishing touch.
Petra ordered the CLT (Colchester crab, lettuces, tomato & roast tomato vinaigrette) and I had the octopus carpaccio with orange grenebloise and black olive oil. It was bloody lovely! The octopus was tender and came apart in soft little disks. The orange was sweet and complimented it perfectly. Not sure what the crumbly white stuff was but I loved it!
For mains I ordered the roast Cornish cod with kombu, chanterelles, baby gem lettuce, cockles and cream. It was rich and creamy and savoury. I especially loved the baby gem lettuce which was tucked right at the bottom and was soft and lovely. The cockles were a real treat and I ate up every last drop of the rich buttery sauce.
Petra went for the roasted halibut, spring cabbage, gremolata and roasted shellfish juices - this was light and fresh with a deep and juicy savoury taste from the lovely sauce.
For pud we shared the Szechuan and sea salt baked pineapple with lime and coconut. It was amazing! The pineapple was wafer thin and had such a concentrated pineapple flavour! Really really lovely.
All in all, top restaurant - not a cheap night out by any means but worth every penny and I'll definitely be back to check out the cocktail bar upstairs - The Blind Pig!