Monday, 14 January 2008

The Landau, Regent Street

First of all, a confession. I forgot to take a picture of the menu in the Landau, so my descriptions of the dishes in this review may be a little more vague than usual. But in my defence, even if I did have the menu in front of me the chances of me making any sense of the surrealist masterpieces we ate yesterday lunchtime would have been very small indeed. This is the style of haute cuisine that is in many ways the exact opposite of the food served at Foliage - it's fussy where Foliage is precise, mystifying where Foliage is straightforward. But on its own terms the Landau is just as rewarding an experience - you just have to free your mind (and your wallet) and enjoy the dishes given to you, without even beginning to understand why.

The first course of the six-course tasting menu was some sort of ceviche I think (sorry!) with soft boiled quails eggs and artichoke hearts. It was delicate and delicious with crispy vegetables adding texture and the ceviche itself being satisfyingly firm and tasty. Shot through all these ingredients was a heady note of black truffle, which also won points. A brilliant start.

Next things started getting a little odd. A little stack of parmesan cracker, fresh crab and apple sorbet was served next to two perfect little cubes of preserved apple flesh topped with caviar. Oh, and a pipette full of apple juice. We were instructed to squeeze the pipette into our mouths before starting on the other ingredients, which was more difficult than it sounds as if you don't tip your head far enough back the apple juice escapes down your chin. After mopping myself down with a napkin I attacked the crab, which was as fresh as you could hope for and mixed with avocado I think. The apple/caviar combo was delicious too, and overall this was another great course.

Sadly a fois gras terrine which followed let the side down slightly. The terrine itself was heavily laced with salty cured pork of some sort, which was a bit overwhelming. Also, almost as soon as this admittedly very well presented dish arrived on our tables a waiter ruined it by dumping a huge triangle of toasted brioche on top. But it was only disappointing in the context of the first two brilliant courses, so we still wolfed it down happily.

Then, in a change to the advertised item, a single fat scallop with a morel sauce, two teeny bits of leek and a smear of carrot puree. This was even more of a let-down - the scallop was lacking in flavour, as was the morel sauce which actually didn't taste of anything much at all let alone those famously strongly-flavoured fungi. The leeks were pointless, and the carrot was blah too. Perhaps the kitchen had struggled to come up with something decent after being let down by the sea-bass man. Not very succesful I'm afraid.

Fortunately, the next course was absolutely stunning. A great big two-rib rack of pink lamb served on perfectly cooked green beans and a gorgeous syrupy red-wine reduction. With it, a miniature mutton suet pudding (I think) was the real star of the show, earthy and meaty and packed with flavour. The lamb deserves a special mention however for being one of the best examples of this kind of meat I've had in a long while - for want of a better adjective, it was just incredibly "lamby". A really memorable course.

Finally, a dessert course which looked like it had been designed by Joan MirĂ³ - geometric slices of apple flesh with a "rising sun" caramel cracker. Next to it was a delicate teardrop of caramel containing a sweet appley liquid touched with gold leaf! Breathtaking to look at, and nearly as good to eat (there's only so much you can do with apple). Served with it was a zingingly fresh apple sorbet.

Service was as good as you would expect in any haute-cuisine London restaurant but a special mention should go to the Sommelier who was charming and approachable and matched the food with 6 expertly chosen half-glasses. But really everyone we came in contact with was professional and friendly, from front of house to the back. After a couple of terrible meals recently I was ready for a little pampering, and the Landau was a perfect tonic. The only major downside - predictably - became apparent with the arrival of the bill, my share alone being £130. Still, food of this standard rarely comes cheap and I don't feel it was out of kilter with other places in London of a similar level. The Landau is an exciting new addition to starry dining in the city, and deserves to do very well indeed.


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