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Great Tastes at the Cadogan
April 18, 2012
The Cadogan Hotel in Sloane Street, London SW1 is a 5-star boutique hotel, which seems far too swanky (at first glance) to be affordable to most of us. BUT it is currently running a fantastic value-for-money restaurant promotion: 3 courses for £28 featuring the best of British produce, specifically, many of this year’s winners in the Great Tastes Awards (the UK’s most trusted and recognised food and drink awards). So I pitched up to try it out, after a bit of shopping in nearby Harrods (I only bought some Nurofen, so I haven’t really got the hang of this shopaholic lark).
The Cadogan is a lovely find, all dark wood panelling, Notting Hill grey/taupe walls, flattering lighting and tasteful neutral tartan carpet, plus artfully arranged displays of some of the food featured on the menu (jars of pickles, oils, preserves etc).
My companion and I (OK, husband) started in the bar with juice and mineral water (Way-hey, we know how to party). It was quite busy even though only 1845hrs, and we didn’t feel as alone and echoey as we expected. The place had a nice buzz in fact, with a few office groups and couples dotted around. The staff were smiley and helpful, very professional and unobtrustive. The husband perused the wine list and pronounced, “Interesting English wines from 3 different producers. If you’re looking for English wines, this place is exceptional. The main wine list is safe, a bit pedestrian. Chelsea prices. Nothing appalling, nothing exciting. Quite young wines, which is normal for a restaurant. The oldest is 1995, a Rioja.” You see he tells it like it is, doesn’t sugar-coat it.
I went for the British Cold Meat Platter as a starter, which came on an olivewood (?) board, fantastically presented with a watercress garnish, mini Kilner jar of Piccalilli, and quenelle of celeriac slaw. It was a carnivore’s dream: champion award winning corned beef form Northern Ireland, wild boar and sloe gin salami, smoked duck and air-dried beech-smoked ham. The only thing I would say is that the Piccalilli overpowered the meats a bit. But you could always leave it. The husband, who wants to be known as the Irascible Swede (I.S.) loved his Trio of salmon (wild smoked, seared and salmon tartare, which came with shaved fennel, lemon zest and dill weed cream). It looked tiny next to mine, but he delcared it filling, probably because he had scoffed loads of the raisin and rosemary bread which came with little bottles of Kentish Cobnut Oil (Hurstwood Farm) and Mackintosh of Glendaveny Extra Virgin Cold Pressed Rapeseed Oil Infused with Lemon – for dipping. I tried these oils and they were, respectively, nutty and light, and very subtley lemony with a hint of sunflower seed flavour. Unusual and a nice touch to have the little bottles on the table.
Mains were Laver Seaweed and Spelt Risotto with sea foam and sea kale. Laverbread is a funny substance, odd, with a syrupy texture and slightly flavourless. The risotto was nutty, lovely and creamy with a cheffy foam, and it came with braised endive (which was not mentioned on the menu! one of my bugbears). In fact the dish needed it to cut through the creamy richness. I.S. had “Three Ages of Lamb” – baked cannon of lamb ( flavoursome and tender), grilled hogget leg (tough, possibly over-grilled?) and braised mutton shoulder “hot pot” (nice). He washed it down with Crozes Hermitage, and had a Gavi de Gavi with the fish.
Then pudding! I love an ice cream and could not be persuaded to go for the champion gluten free chocolate brownie with whisky pear and vanilla ice cream, although it sounded awesome. So I lapped up Salcome Dairy stem ginger, vanilla, and clotted cream flavours, garnished with an edible pansy (or something – I ate it anyway). I.S. had cheeses – Quickes Traditional Cornish Vintage Cheddar, Cornish Yarg, Mrs Bells Blue (no apostrophe on Bells) and Milleens Dote plus quince, damson and port jelly. All disappeared along with the charcoal crackers.
We’re not great ones for coffee so we skipped that and headed for a taxi. A really lovely meal with charming staff, a real find in central London, tucked away a bit from the melee/tourists of Knightsbridge/Harrods (although still accessible from there, a 5-minute walk). The sort of place I’d take my in-laws, go for a romantic anniversary-type meal, or actually, it’s cheap enough to go for a special-ish weekday meal if you just feel like a treat. The current menu has been devised in collaboration with Telegraph food writer Xanthe Clay and BBC Radio4′s food commentator Nigel Barden. And in May the menu will change to one created with Thomasina Miers (winner of MasterChef and Owner of Wahaca) and Lucas Hollweg (food writer for The Sunday Times). Future menus will also be created by notable UK foodies, rotating every few months.
Overall, it’s a massive thumbs up. Try it and fly the flag for fabulous British food in Olympics year AND the Queens Diamond Jubilee Year, if you need an excuse. Plus it’s a real bargain at this price.