Monday 27 August 2012

A return to the Freemasons Arms at Wiswell

Just a quick report of a recent meal this time: all of what I've said previously (including here) still holds, though front of house service is now very much improved.  The Freemasons presents itself as a country pub; yet the prices and the style of the food show that the main competition is with nearby Northcote.  I have to say that, if Northcote can have one Michelin star, and Tom Kerridge can (bizarrely in my view) have two Michelin stars at the Hand & Flowers, then one star is well within chef-patron, Steve Smith's grasp.  I'd come to the Freemasons at Wiswell rather than Northcote (or the Hand & Flowers, though that's at the other end of the country) any time.

I started with an English Pea and Parmesan Soup with Beans on ToastThis was a pea soup topped with a parmesan espuma and what were not entirely dissimilar to salt and vinegar wotsits, while on the side, was a gorgeous crostino of broad beans, liberally laced with truffle shavings. The soup and the espuma both had a beautiful texture, but were a bit under-powered, but the main reason for having this dish was the "beans on toast" which is so good, it completely puts the soup in the shade.

English Pea and Parmesan Soup with Beans on Toast
Next came a Ragout of Wild Mushrooms, Summer Truffle, Crispy Hen's Egg.  Very nice, all perfectly cooked, though more variety in the mushrooms would have helped, as once again, it was the incidentals that shone in this dish.
Ragout of Wild Mushrooms, Summer Truffle, Crispy Hen's Egg
My main course was a dish called Anna's Happy Trotters. Bizarrely, this had no element of trotter in it: it was a sizeable hunk of tenderloin (possibly lightly smoked?), some slow cooked, glazed gammon, a piece of roast pineapple, a smear of black pudding purée, pork pie sauce, and some airbag crackling sprinkled over.  A very good dish.  Perhaps the tenderloin could have done with a bit more "natural" cooking, as it had a bit of a pappy texture.  But why on earth is the dish called Anna's Happy Trotters?  One of our table specifically didn't have this dish because of the assumption it would revolve around pigs' trotters.
Anna's Happy Trotters
The first dessert was a Summer Berry Soup with berries, goats' cheese, crispy rice and some pieces of (pistachio?) sponge. A really good, balanced dish, in which all elements had a full role to play.

Summer Berry Soup
The second dessert, and final course today, was Peach Melba.  A deconstructed peach melba, riffing on (according to the menu) roast white peach, vanilla and raspberry.  This didn't work quite as well for me as the chilled berry soup, even after I'd got over the (hardly earth-shattering) disappointment that they were regular peaches, not white peaches.  It's difficult to put my finger on it, but I think it was essentially down to the deconstruction taking Escoffier's invention a little out of balance: I think it needed more peach. But that's really just down to personal taste, and it would be difficult to criticise anything in the execution.

Peach Melba
Jugs of iced water arrive automatically.  There are a few interesting real ales, and an interesting wine list, which is pretty well chosen, with lengthy descriptions of most of the wines, and a healthy number by the glass.  Wine prices quickly move into uncomfortable territory though.  We drank a stunning bottle of 2009 Spinifex Papillon that was so good we ordered another.  Interestingly, the second bottle was substantially below the excellence of the first, though without an obvious fault, and had we not had the first bottle, we'd have probably just put it down as not a particularly brilliant wine. A third bottle was much closer to the first, but still not quite as good.  The front of house staff handled this not only extremely well, but also with interest.

Coffee (an unfortunately crema-less, but decent-tasting espresso for me) came with excellent petits fours.

The Olympic flag flies over Wiswell

Freemasons at Wiswell on Urbanspoon

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