Wednesday, 3 September 2008
Bacchus Bar & Kitchen, Hoxton
My, how time flies. I can hardly believe it was all the way back in March last year that I visited Bacchus, the experimental molecular-gastronomy restaurant housed in a refurbished pub in Hoxton. I had a spectacular, challenging meal, served by attentive and intelligent waiting staff and spent the next 18 months vowing to return soon. I never did.
The reason I never made a repeat visit was, of course, location, location, location. As a Battersea resident, for the time and effort required to make a return trip to Hoxton you might as well go for a meal on the Moon. But unfortunately that wasn't the only thing putting me off - you must believe me when I say there are very few areas of the country I consider to be obstacles in the way of decent grub; I spent the first 22 years of my life in Liverpool, after all. But after our lovely meal at Bacchus we spent much of the remainder of the evening at a friend's flat two doors down watching two people beat up each other (and various unlucky parked vehicles) with iron bars. I got a taxi home, and my friends have since moved to Stoke Newington.
Now, finally succumbing to market forces and the fact that a large majority of the fine-dining crowd do not consider carrying a bullet-proof vest and tazer to be the hallmarks of a relaxing evening out, Bacchus has relaunched as Bacchus Bar & Kitchen, and swapped foams for gravy, sous-vide for shepherd's pie, and Nuno Mendes (visionary gastronaut) for Richard Tewnion, formally of the Pig's Ear in Chelsea.
At first glance, little seemed to have changed inside Bacchus. It was, after all, a fairly relaxed space already as fine-dining rooms go, and with the addition of a couple of trendily battered sofas and a more accessible bar area, it now has completed an easy transition to a gastropub. The menu was pleasing in its Britishness - crab on toast, pea and mint risotto, sea bream and spinach - all tempting stuff. My first course was a rabbit terrine.
The generously portioned terrine was rich and hearty, shot through with just enough summer veg and sprinkled with salt to give it that extra burst of flavour. I wasn't hugely enamoured of the accompanying piccalilli (rather under-vinegared and slightly on the sweet side) but given that this was made in house I am willing to give them time to improve on the formula. This was a very successful dish and worthy of any top gastropub in the city.
Next was "chicken breast, potato fondant and cepes", and the first thing to grab my attention was a heady note of alcohol rising up from the plate. The chicken was attractively sliced and with a nice crispy skin, and the mushrooms weren't overpowered by the stock and alcoholic (possibly sherry) sauce. Although not a fondant as I would know one, the potato was well seasoned and arranged in a sort of mini-gratin beneath the chicken.
The best was yet to come - the bill, which was an astonishing £10 each. Given that these were two substantial and satisfying courses, we just didn't have room for dessert, but if we had they would have cost us an extra £3. We were even offered tea & coffee on the house, which we politely declined in a rush to get back to the office before our lunch hour was up. An extraordinary bargain - and I'm told one that probably won't last too long - so it's up to you to make the most of it while it lasts. Even if Bacchus hadn't been the lunch bargain of the century I would have still had a very good meal; at £10 a head this is unbeatable.
A trend has been developing over the last few months; it seems the less I spend on a meal the better it turns out to be. Of course I want everyone that can to go to Bacchus and have the best food you can get for the money in north London, but that was true of the old Bacchus as well. Whether their revamp will start attracting punters to the badlands of Hoxton remains to be seen - what is very clear even at this stage, is that if you do make the effort, the rewards are immense.
Pick up a voucher for 50% off your meal at Bacchus Bar & Kitchen from Carbon Free Dining