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Bacchus, Hoxton. [Jul. 11th, 2007|12:06 pm]
Kake
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So, rjw1 and uon took me to Bacchus for my birthday dinner last night.


We started with cocktails for me and doop, and a Leffe for Bob. doop chose the Bacchus Bubblebath, which involves vodka, green apple, vanilla, Thai basil, and lemongrass, and comes with a foam on top (hence the name, I suppose). He said that if Lush were a cocktail, it would taste like this. He liked it a lot.

I had the Bacchus Bloody Marvellous, "our twist on classic Bloody Mary, served tableside". I'm not sure what the "served tableside" part is about, but the twist was that they used tomato water, put through a cheesecloth to remove the colour yet keep the flavour, instead of the normal very red tomato juice. It was extremely lovely, and the chilli oil floating on top made for an interesting garnish. Coincidentally, I've also been experimenting with tomato water Bloody Mary recently, but mine haven't been as good as this, and I think now that where I've been going wrong is letting the bits and pieces you normally put in — Worcester sauce, Tabasco etc — overwhelm the fresh tomato flavour. More experimentation will, of course, ensue.

Bacchus has an interesting menu structure where you choose to have either three (£30), six (£40), or nine (£60) courses of the nine-course tasting menu. There is no a la carte. Although they do choose which courses get missed out, rather than you getting to mix and match, they're flexible with substitutions if necessary; for example, Bob, who doesn't eat chocolate, got the wasabi-strawberry dessert instead of the chocolate-mangosteen one. We went for the six-course menu, given my recent failure to manage nine courses at Umu, and chose to have the paired wines (£30) along with it. Again, since Bob gets instant headaches from white wine, they were happy to substitute reds for him where necessary. The kitchen also sent out two amuse-bouches before the courses proper.

First amuse: A little parmesan choux pastry thing; I think it had a little bit of chilli in too? Warm from the oven, it was good. It went rather well with my Bloody Marvellous, which I was still finishing off. (Dan Lepard has a good recipe for this sort of thing here.)

Second amuse: Rabbit mousse wrapped into a small spring roll shape with thin slices of potato (? I think. Not sure how it was cooked). Topped with a little clump of very thinly julienned raw beetroot and served with a cooked cherry and a smear of cherry sauce. Bob pointed out that the shape of the cherry sauce smear resembled a stylised cherry, very nice touch if it was on purpose!

First course: Skate and avocado roll — caramel, curry crumble, passion fruit. The roll was made up of very thin slices of avocado rolled around some kind of creamy/mousse-like preparation involving skate, and topped with a thin caramel. It was a bit too rich and creamy for me (doop thought I was mad; he really liked it). The passion fruit worked well to cut through the richness, though. I liked the curry crumble a lot at the time, but the "crumbly powder" theme was repeated a bit too often in successive courses, so I'm not so keen on it now. The caramel was very good for caramel (I liked the slight saltiness, and doop said he thought he detected a fishy flavour too), but I don't like things that stick in my teeth, so I didn't finish it (not the restaurant's fault, of course).

Second course: Salad of vegetables — fruits of the season, tomato gelee, flowers. This one was really good (but then I do like vegetables a lot). I liked the tiny broad beans, but found the asparagus a bit tough (too old? It's not really asparagus season any more, is it?). The tomato gelee, a thin layer of loosely gelled tomato concoction underlying the salad, was reminiscent of my Bloody Marvellous cocktail, and just as good. I also liked the tiny cubes of very firm balsamic vinegar jelly. The paired wine (2005 Yvon et Pascal Tabordet Sancerre Rose) went very well with this course; I'd thought it was uninteresting when I first sipped it, but it was the right choice for the food.

Third course: Paradise prawns — seared pineapple, green olive sofrito, iced coconut. The prawn was a large one, cooked very well, and nicely spiced. Bob thought the prawn was undercooked for his taste, but he doesn't really like prawns anyway, and doop and I thought it was perfect. There was a rich tomato and pine nut sort of stew thing involved in this course too, and I wasn't really sure it belonged there — I tried eating it with the iced coconut, and the tomato got lost; I tried eating it with the prawn, and the spices on the prawn got lost. Green olive sofrito — I think this was just finely-chopped and sauteed green olives. It worked well with everything else on the plate. The crunchy powder thing made its second appearance in this course; I think it was toasted breadcrumbs in this case. I think this might have been the course where I forgot to drink any wine until afterwards because there was so much stuff going on on the plate.

Fourth course: Monkfish filet (dedicado a W.D.) — fennel compote, saffron toasted oats, ajo blanco, piquillo. The ajo blanco was fantastic — a roasted hazelnut and garlic sauce, really lovely without being overpowering, that went well with the monkfish. Speaking of the monkfish, it was also very good; cooked sous vide for somewhere in the region of 10 minutes. The saffron toasted oats were the third appearance of crunchy powder, and I was getting a bit fed up with it at this point. The fennel compote was nice enough — doop did mention that he felt there was rather a tendency to include something sweet in every course; he has something of a point, but I don't think this aspect was overdone at all, and I don't even like sweet things. I think this was the course that had the Japanesey salad leaves — I seem to remember mizuna was mentioned — that I wanted there to be more of. (As for who W.D. is, my best guess is Wylie Dufresne.)

Fifth course: Veal breast — soy milk, carrots, ginger ale, Szechuan peppercorns. The soy milk jelly layer tasted like nothing so much as that not-very-nice long-life silken tofu that comes in little cuboids; I don't know what brand of soya milk they used, but I'd love to try this done with the freshly-made stuff. The veal (again, cooked sous vide, but this time for something more on the order of 24 hours60 hours, according to Bob) was wonderfully tender; I would have preferred it to have had the fat removed, since it wasn't necessary given the cooking technique. I did want a bit of umami in this, but I am a bit of a salt/umami fiend. Something involving soy sauce (they could even have smeared it!) would have been a pleasing thing to have included, given the soy milk already used. I did wonder if the choice of soya milk was as a nod to Jewish dietary laws, but I asked and apparently it was down to flavour, which is odd, given that the flavour of the finished item really wasn't anything special. The carrots were great, and I don't actually like carrots. The wine that came with this course was a very dry red, and I liked it a lot (2003 Castello Vicchiomaggio "La Prima" Chianti Classico Reserva).

Sixth course: Dark chocolate — mangosteen, rose water, powders. Basically a little chocolate pudding, molten in the middle, with a couple of lobes of mangosteen, some ground hazelnut, some cocoa powder, and something white in a shot glass (spot the person who Doesn't Do Dessert). doop liked this a lot. I don't really like desserts, so I'm not really qualified to comment on it. I did think it would have been better to have given us spoons that would actually fit in the shot glasses. There was apparently some white truffle tapioca in this, but I couldn't work out where; perhaps in the shot glass. I did like the wine though (2004 Castelnau de Suduiraut Sauternes).

Petits fours: Again, it was dessert. doop liked it. I did like the little white chocolate thing with the wasabi and raisin inside, and I didn't mind the creme Catalan (I liked the ground cinnamon on top of the latter; though Bob thought there was too much of it, I didn't). There were truffles with this; doop ate his and Bob's and two thirds of mine. He ordered an espresso to go with the last one and declared this to be the right decision.

Overall: I liked the choice of courses; I thought they were nicely-balanced in terms of main ingredient, and I liked having one seafood, one fish, and one meat, rather than all meat all the time. I could have done without quite so much crunchy powder; a single appearance would have been unusual and interesting, but three was a bit too much. Overall impression was that it was all very light and just right for summer, but we certainly didn't come away hungry; in fact, I was surprised at how full I actually was, since it was a very light kind of full, if that makes sense. I would very much like to eat a vegetarian tasting menu cooked by this chef, and I have no doubt he could do it. (Whether the restaurant context would make that possible or not, I don't know, but I intend to find out.)
LinkReply

Comments:
[User Picture]From: julietk
2007-07-11 12:27 pm (UTC)
I was about to ask if they did vegetarian, but the menu implies not. Bah. (not that vegetarian = vegan *anyway*, of course[0]).

How much wine did they give you at each course? Because 6 glasses at the 175ml that now seems to be standard = rather a lot of wine. 125ml would be OK; that would be a bottle, which is a fair amount but not falling-over type amounts.


[0] There are a very small number of occasions on which I actually wish I wasn't vegan. One of them is on discussing tasting menus at v good restaurants (e.g. The Fat Duck, or Le Manoir[1]). (The other is when there's really really good cheese available, obviously. Being a rubbish vegan helps here...)

[1] I have been to Le Manoir, before I went vegan. It was *fabulous*.
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[User Picture]From: nou
2007-07-11 12:35 pm (UTC)
I have heard rumours that they can cope with vegetarians. I plan to put this review on chowhound later today and then email them to let them know about it and ask questions about vegetarianness. TBH if they're willing to do vegetarian I don't think it would be any more trouble really to do vegan.

Amount of wine: I think we got about 100ml per course. Our veal course took a while to come, and the front of house chappy wandered over and gave us top-ups of that course's wine while we were waiting.
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[User Picture]From: julietk
2007-07-11 12:41 pm (UTC)
If you're emailing *anyway* could you possibly ask about veganness as well? (don't worry if too much hassle!) If it's a special thing anyway then yeah, prob feasible to do vegan. I have kind of assumed with the Fat Duck that since they have a standard veggie tasting menu, asking them to do a vegan one wouldn't go down well. And I don't particularly want to go to the Fat Duck & just have a la carte!

100ml/course sounds about right. I didn't think they would be likely to overdo it, but [insert standard grumble here about overlarge glasses at pubs & restaurants].
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[User Picture]From: rjw1
2007-07-11 12:55 pm (UTC)
i actually thought it wasnt enough wine(I can quite easily drink a bottle during a meal). it was fine though since i had to get up a 6 this morning to do some maintenace anyway.
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[User Picture]From: nou
2007-07-11 01:09 pm (UTC)
Yep, sorry, was planning to ask about veganness too!

Pubs used to offer "large" or "small" glasses of wine, didn't they? And now you only get large. I don't mind large glasses if I'm sticking to the same wine, but if there's a choice of many nice wines, I'd rather have more smaller glasses. I hear the GBBF this year will have 1/3 pint lines on the glasses as well as 1/2 pint ones, for this reason.
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[User Picture]From: caramel_betty
2007-07-11 01:15 pm (UTC)
Up in Scotland, where I was at the weekend, there were still pubs doing 175 and 250ml glasses. I haven't drunk wine in pubs in London in ages, however, so it may be one of those things where London pubs have tried to hide a price rise but other bits of the country haven't.
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[User Picture]From: nou
2007-07-11 01:31 pm (UTC)
Ha, no, small glasses were 125ml; the 175ml ones were the large ones. Goodness knows what they'd have called the 250ml ones.
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[User Picture]From: johnckirk
2007-07-11 02:31 pm (UTC)
In my experience, a white wine glass can hold 200ml (if you fill it pretty much to the brim), and a red wine glass can hold 250ml. A normal bottle of wine is 750ml, so a quarter of that is 187.5ml, and that fits nicely into the white wine glass.

When I was in Pizza Hut recently, I asked for a glass of wine at their "quarter bottle" size, and it arrived in an actual tiny bottle by itself (rather than being poured out of a normal bottle), which surprised me.
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[User Picture]From: nou
2007-07-11 04:27 pm (UTC)
You don't want to fill it to the brim, though, really. I know the most commonly quoted reason for this (filling the glass right up makes it hard to smell the wine) doesn't apply to you, but don't you find it hard to drink from a completely-full wine glass? I know I do. Also, if it's a chilled wine, and the glass is too full, then (a) it gets too heavy to hold it by the stem, so you have to hold it by the bowl, so it warms up faster; and (b) if wine's sitting in the glass, it's not being chilled in the bottle in the ice bucket/fridge any more, so it warms up faster.

You can get those small bottles in supermarkets too. I've found them handy on occasion. Maybe Pizza Hut don't actually sell very much wine by the glass, so the smaller bottles make more sense than ending up having to throw away ends of bottles?
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[User Picture]From: johnckirk
2007-07-11 11:34 pm (UTC)
I've heard that the reason for red wine glasses being larger is that you don't have to worry about it warming up (since it's already at room temperature), but since I don't like red wine that's a moot point for me.

As for white, I don't necessarily fill the glass right to the brim, but I will get through a 750ml bottle in four glasses (of approximately equal size). Similarly, when I had the mini-bottle I tipped it all into the glass at once. I haven't found any problem with that, but you may be right about the benefits of doing it a different way, so I'll try that.
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[User Picture]From: caramel_betty
2007-07-11 01:13 pm (UTC)
http://www.bacchus-restaurant.co.uk/html/modules/alacarte.html looks to be a bit different to the Flash version of the website (and so may be out of date if they only care about the singing dancing flash version) but suggests an a la carte menu with some things that look veggie friendly though mentions of yoghurt make me think probably not vegan friendly.

The tasting menu appears to have nothing said about anything looking even slightly veggie, alas, and I'd be surprised if a restaurant did have veggie/vegan options and didn't mention it on their website.
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[User Picture]From: nou
2007-07-13 06:31 pm (UTC)
They say yes, they can do both vegetarian and vegan tasting menus, you just need to mention it when you book. Feel like a visit some time?
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[User Picture]From: julietk
2007-07-17 03:29 pm (UTC)
Yes, definitely!
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[User Picture]From: nou
2007-07-18 12:41 am (UTC)
How about August? They'll have changed the menu then, so those not planning to be vegan (e.g. Bob) will get to have something different. (I am planning to do the vegan thing along with you, BTW.)

I seem to be free all of August except Sat 4th, Thurs 9th, Fri 10th, and Sat 25th onwards.
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[User Picture]From: julietk
2007-07-27 12:57 pm (UTC)
Argh. The finances, they say: can it be September instead?

(sorry for delay in replying, exploding laptop combined with Glade has caused me to be behindhand on email/LJ!)
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[User Picture]From: nou
2007-07-27 03:31 pm (UTC)
September works for me. Hurrah!
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[User Picture]From: rjw1
2007-07-11 12:52 pm (UTC)
i think the table next to us were having some vegetarian courses.
certainly at one point they had a 2 different dishes between the 4 of them
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[User Picture]From: being_here
2007-07-11 12:44 pm (UTC)
That sounds lovely. And happy birthday!
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[User Picture]From: nou
2007-07-11 01:10 pm (UTC)
It was. We plan to go back. And thank you!
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[User Picture]From: rjw1
2007-07-11 12:59 pm (UTC)
the veal had been cooking for about 60 hours supposedly
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[User Picture]From: nou
2007-07-11 01:10 pm (UTC)
Fixed, ta.
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[User Picture]From: alan1957
2007-07-11 01:19 pm (UTC)
much of it sounds excellent, although i would not eat the veal ('n' a tomato jelly-y fings sounds awful ter my taste). i've never eaten a meal like this 'n' would luv ter 'ave a go sometime.
pleased yew 'ad fun.
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[User Picture]From: katstevens
2007-07-11 01:39 pm (UTC)
Cor! That sounds great. I would probably be scared of the prawns because I am a wuss, but generally when it's a Proper Restaurant then I trust their judgement over my mostly-bonkers attitude as to what is tasty and what isn't (hence me having a fried egg at Arbutus when I RLY don't like fried eggs, and blimmin' heck it was good).
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[User Picture]From: earwaxandtoejam
2007-07-12 02:46 am (UTC)
Oooh. Good thing I'd just eaten before reading this. IT sounds wonderful.
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[User Picture]From: scootersaurus
2007-07-13 01:47 pm (UTC)
Happy belated birthday. :)
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[User Picture]From: owlfish
2007-07-18 10:25 am (UTC)
I've been reading good things about Bacchus for a while now. Your meal makes me even more interested in trying it.
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