22nd January 2016

Undercover eats

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One of our anonymous inspectors gives us the low-down on their menu highlights from the year.

Pork Chop, truffles and onions at Hedone, Chiswick. Even among Hedone’s consistently ultra-premium produce, these small, delicate chops with their crisp skin, melting fat and pristinely pink eye of meat stand out as truly special. Truffle? What truffle? With pork this memorable you cease to notice it.

Guinea Fowl at Lake Road Kitchen, Ambleside. Yes, the ultra-aged beef is lovely, but this whole guinea fowl breast with its glass-crisp sheath of skin wrapping juicy, super-savoury flesh is other worldly. 

Rib of beef at the Magdalen Arms, Oxford. These giant slabs of long-aged Dexter or Longhorn, carved pink alongside their crusty, Flintstones-sized bones (for gnawing) are by some margin my beef pick of the year.

Coffee and Cigar at Elderflower, Lymington. I’m not one for gimmickry, but even if the various tuiles, ice creams, and parfaits of coffee, chocolate and whisky that create this visually-arresting pudding didn’t look exactly like a coffee and a Cuban, they’d still be worth the trip.

Langoustines, parsnip puree and hazelnuts at Bohemia, Jersey. Remarkably sweet, plumptuous langoustines with wonderfully dense flesh, toasted hazels in lots of butter, a luscious parsnip puree and sea herbs. Remarkable combinations, produce and preparation.

Lamb fat brioche at Freemasons at Wiswell. This little roll is the single most mesmerising recipe I have encountered all year. How lamb fat and flour can become so ethereally light and fluffy is a mystery known only to the Freemasons.

Turbot with truffle risotto at The Harrow at Little Bedwyn. The fish is great of course, but it’s Roger Jones’ intensely creamy, yet light risotto that astounds. Made with Guernsey cream and butter, aged rice, carrot stock and Australian truffles, this is a classic taken up a good few notches. 

Oysters at Ormer, Jersey. The best oysters I have had anywhere, ever. Nothing new or flashy, just pristine, juicy specimens that are uncommonly fat and fleshy. And even more surprisingly some of the most affordable in Jersey.  

Chicken wings at the Smoking Goat, Soho. It’s hard to imagine the size of the chicken these gargantuan wings must come from; the contrast of a sticky, crispy, fish sauce-packed exterior against slippery, silky flesh beneath is what gourmet junk-food was supposed to be all about.