The culinary adventures of some gluten hating girl in London
There are a few occasions throughout the year which I feel warrant a little celebration, presents and a posh meal, and Valentine’s Day is definitely one of them. I know, I know, it’s commercial rubbish designed to empty your pockets and fill your home with red sparkly heart shaped merchandise that neither of you ever needed or wanted, but I quite like to cast all that aside for the day because I have found that if you do you may find that actually, it’s just a little bit nice… This year therefore the boy and I decided to push the boat out a little and try out swanky Avenue restaurant on St James’s Street for dinner.
The kitchen is led by Finnish chef Kimmo Makkonen, and specialises in Modern European food. He had created a five course Valentine’s Menu for the evening, priced at £45.00 per person.
The glass fronted restaurant has a minimalist feel to it, yet avoids feeling clinical with colourful seating and artwork. It’s an elegant looking place, and was perhaps more so due to the occasion of my visit. I was pleased to see some Valentine’s themed decor in the form of a gigantic pair of vases accommodating the biggest roses I’d ever seen atop the long bar at the side of the restaurant. Pretty flowers, thought I, as we sat to begin the feasting.
Atmosphere had been bought in for the evening. I’m unsure how much of a buzz the place would have on a normal night, but for this most special of occasions they’d employed the talents of a lady singer, who wasn’t at all bad, despite the fact that her performances got gradually less and less enthusiastic throughout the night. She really did sound quite chirpy at the start. There were also some violinists setting the mood for lurveee.
Shortly after being seated we were presented with a pair of passion fruit Bellinis, which had me sold on Avenue from the start. I do love a Bellini.
An Amuse Bouche was delivered by our waitress with the interesting phrase “This is Jerusalem Arthichoke soup, some people like it, some people don’t.” Can’t complain though, she was right. I thought it was delicious – rich and earthy, yet a little on the thick side, but the boy was not keen at all. As I looked around I noticed other tables having similar Marmite type reactions.
The picture doesn’t do it justice (it was dark in there) – the soup was more of a yellowish brown hue with white foam on the top. Imagine it looking like a little soupy bubblebath. (That does not sound appetising, I apologise, it really was very good – well I thought so anyway).
To start I chose a scallop carpaccio, whilst boy opted for the meaty rabbit terrine. The scallops were delicious and sweet. I thought that the dressing could have had a bit more of a citrus kick to it but overall it was a fantastic start to the meal. Rabbit terrine wasn’t at all bad either – I would’ve preferred it with a chutney of some kind but that is possibly due to the chutney obsession with which I suffer.
The next instalment of our Henry VIII style dining experience came in the form of a goat’s cheese ravioli. I learned when this arrived that the chefs of Avenue are really keen on the use of foam. Foam still strikes me as an odd thing to add to restaurant dishes, it’s just that little bit too reminiscent of the mucky stuff that washes up on the beach for my liking. Having said this this foam wasn’t at all bad – tasted sweet and oniony, complimenting the solitary ravioli perfectly. The goat’s cheese filling was rich and creamy, just as it should be. Pasta could’ve been a little thinner, but overall a good dish…In fact when the waitress came over to ask us if we’d had our ravioli yet I did consider lying to get my hands on another, but that’d just be greedy wouldn’t it.
The service did seem to get a bit more erratic as the evening drew on, (odd ravioli question for example) but I put this down to the restaurant being far busier than they are probably used to – later another waiter came marching over to pour wine into our water glasses before slapping himself on the head and exclaiming “What am I doooooing?” The friendliness and attentiveness of the waiting staff more than made up for little accidents such as this, though.
My main of roasted salmon was perfectly cooked with a delicious salty crispy skin. It claimed to be accompanied by a horseradish sauce but I detected little to no horseradish kick – which I didn’t think was a bad thing. Boy chose the fillet of beef which melted in the mouth – perfection.
To finish we both picked the chocolate tart with rose hip ice cream, because you’ve got to have chocolate on Valentine’s day. The tart was easily one of the best I’ve ever had. It was rich but not too sweet, light and fluffy with a bitter kick of dark chocolate. I was less keen on the rose hip ice cream which to me just tasted of air freshener but boy seemed to enjoy it. Each to their own.
As a final finale a pair of petit fours appeared, dark chocolate truffles coated in cocoa. The perfect end to an indulgent feast and the perfect distraction to a hefty bill…
The Verdict: The meal was lovely and I’d thoroughly recommend Avenue for a special occasion. Service was a little haphazard but overall a good evening and one I didn’t mind paying the money for.
The Avenue Restaurant & Bar
7-9 St James Street