Sunday, 21 April 2019

Taster menu gives melée of flavours

THIS fine-dining restaurant on Station Road opened a little less than 10 months ago and I was thrilled when Shaun invited me and a guest to try the tasting menu.

Restaurant: The Boathouse, Henley

Dinner prices: starters £11 — £13, mains £19 — £23, taster menu £65 per person

Contact: (01491) 577937. Visit www.shaundickens.co.uk

THIS fine-dining restaurant on Station Road opened a little less than 10 months ago and I was thrilled when Shaun invited me and a guest to try the tasting menu.

We relaxed with a glass of wine by the window overlooking the Thames, with lighs twinkling across the river. A trio of canapés was served — a great insight of how the meal would look and taste. The smoked mackerel with lemon gel was my favourite, a classic combination of flavours but with a contemporary twist.

After moving to a smart, linen-clothed table we were served our first course — ox with celeriac and apple. The perfectly cooked meat was seasoned with mustard seed and decorated with a delicate shallot ring. This was a great combination of textures and flavours.

Our second course was a Henley Standard featured recipe (November 22, page 29) — confit salmon with pickled cucumber, ricotta and capers. This was light and fragrant, the sweetness of the salmon balanced out by the acidic cucumber and salty capers. This was a triumph of a dish, and my favourite flavour of the evening. As fine dining taster courses are typically on the small side, each plate was excitedly received and we tucked into each course with gusto, nibbling in between on the delicious homemade bread and orange flavoured butter.

The next dish was pan-fried foie gras, which really packed a punch of rich flavours. This had a more robust texture then I had previously experienced and was served with pecan and fig with a red wine syrup. My guest was not a fan of foie gras so opted instead for a pan-fried pigeon breast.

I was a little nervous about the next course as it contained an ingredient which didn’t sound appealing to me — bone marrow. However this was served in breadcrumbs and deep fried into little golden morsels as an accompaniement to pan-roasted cod and salt-baked turnip. The rich, meaty flavour worked so well with the fish, and combined with the earthy turnip this made the dish different from anything I had ever tasted before. It really quite special.

The last savoury course was a beautiful dish of venison, pomme maxim, braised red cabbage and salsify. All components of the dish were executed beautifully — a real winter warmer.

A palate-cleansing thyme, honey and pear cream was followed by a lemon curd and blueberry sorbet dessert with a delicate meringue. This was a perfect balance of the sweet and tart, tied together on a beautifully-presented plate.

A taster menu is a great way of sampling new dishes, and both the food and service were flawless.

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