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We’re now mid-April and Lorne is top of my 2017 ‘Best Of’ list. It was from the moment I was served a bowl of calm, pale, oddly orgasmic celeriac velouté, which featured a small central island of poached smoked haddock and seasoned Jersey royals, littered with tobiko fish eggs. The velouté had such depth and the spud and fish so perfectly perched, both were sublime in their own right. It all made me so happy that I banged on about it for three solid days like an Oxford Street evangelist. This is why I have the best job in the world. ‘No, not like Cullen skink,’ I’d say, swivel-eyed. ‘More like… deconstructed million- aire’s kedgeree… In fact, like a sea of celeriac tranquillity with an Apollo 11 landing of white fish. You really must go.’ Yes Lorne is seasonal, yes, the produce sought in a serious manner – but this is still very much dinner. You will be sated. Not saddened by smears or made morose with mousse. Lorne’s

London Victoria’s Lorne makes Grace Dent so happy that she bangs on about it for days afterwards

chef Peter Hall and sommelier Katie Exton met at Phil Howard’s the Square and there are echoes of that crisp attention

to quality here. A

starter of confit quail leg sat on a bed of pearl barley, butternut

“It all made me so happy that I banged on about it for three solid days like an Oxford Street evangelist”

squash and mountain yam. My guest’s main was a perfect piece of pork belly, crisp and yielding in entirely applicable propor- tions. This was served with an extraordinary crimson cauli- flower cheese made with pun- gent Brie. A main of hogget arrived with cima di rapa, but for me the star of the plate was a nameless, possibly root veg, hash that married it all. We dined making slightly obscene noises. Price: £86 for two without alcohol. Ambience: 4/5; food: 5/5

Fay Maschler heads to London’s Barnet to review Skewd Kitchen While you might take issue with some of the wall of prov- enance claims about ingredi- ents – what is laudable about eight-years-aged balsamic vine- gar when traditionally you have syrupy pomegranate molasses to hand? – the quality of lamb bought from a small Yorkshire farm in the shish and adana is definitely unusually fine. It is rewardingly discernible in chunks of fillet but more thrill- ing in adana, made with vigor- ously seasoned, chilli-flaked hand-chopped (very important detail) meat enriched by the smoke that results from fat dripping onto coals snaking its way around and through.

Laid tenderly on a long thin slice of lavash, it is the star of our meal. Minced lamb pide is a bread longship of strong savour. “Turks,” says Max, “are the masters of bread.”

The rat-a-tat-tat of hand-chop- ping seems not to have been applied to our mushy ezme sal- ad – or it was a long time ago. An absence of rice or bulgur to absorb juices and fresh vegeta- bles to snap at its heels means that the meat has to sing with- out its usual backing group. If this signifies “progress” then let’s go back to the way it is always done. Score: 3/5. Weekday lunch offers from £10.90. À la carte for two with wine, about £112

Tom Chesshyre says Michael Caines’ newly opened Lympstone Manor in Lympstone, Devon, is a top-notch hotel with great food but warns that prices are steep Modern art, most of which is for sale, adorns the walls; a mere £28,800 for a lovely painting of the estuary near the check- in desk. A doorway opens to a lounge with velvet sofas and a copper-topped bar. Beyond, a flagstone terrace has seats fac- ing the marvellous view, where guests sip martinis at sunset. The chef Michael Caines, who held two Michelin stars for almost 20 years at his previous restaurant at Gidleigh Park in Dartmoor, bought Lympstone Manor in 2014. He is aiming high and does not suffer from

false modesty. When I bump into him, I ask how he would describe the food at his new restaurant. “Bloody good,” he replies with a smile. Caines is justified in blowing his own trumpet; the food is first-rate.

I sample the eight-

course signature tasting menu (£140). The meal kicks off with langoustine cannelloni, followed by quail’s egg tartlet with black truffle and smoked bacon, salt cod with punchy cubes of chorizo, and duck liver in a rich orange/raisin sauce. The main course is a tender beef fillet with horseradish and shallots. This is followed by English cheeses and a lovely chocolate orange mousse. Price: Double rooms from £305

28 April 2017 | The Caterer | 13




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