Tuesday, 7 August 2012

A Michelin Star Affair

With my parents visiting the UK, I have booked for us to have a Michelin star experience in one of two Welsh's only Michelin star restaurant - The Crown at Whitebrook.

The head chef, James Sommerin, was one of the contestants in this year's The Great British Menu!

Fine dining in a Michellin star restaurant is not just about enjoying good food, it is also the entire experience of the surrounding, atmosphere and service of the place.

Tucked in the middle of woods within Wye Valley, Monmouthshire, this restaurant is set in beautiful surrounding for fine dining.

The interior is simple yet elegant with a mixture of old and new.



Before we start......


While we were waiting to be seated at our table, we were served a complimentary pre-starter consisting of (from right to left on picture above) Butternut Squash Soup, Chopped Spiced Tomatoes, Deep Fried Tapioca Ball and Cheese Puff.

The soup was very rich and suitably sweet. The chopped tomatoes were full of flavours from the different spices coming through nicely to complimented the sweetness and sourness of the tomato.

The Tapioca ball was a delight with very crunchy exterior and the texture inside is like glutinous rice but much less sticky/thick. The Choux pastry of the cheese puff was made well as it has a very nice puff and the cheesy flavour was just nice as it did not give an over-powering taste.

Nice combination of four bite-sized treats to whet one's appetite.

And then there was more......


After we were sat at our table, we were served with more pre-starter! A small pot of sweet corn mousse, small pieces of bacon and crisp noodle-like item.

The sweetness of the sweet corn complimented well with the smokiness of the bacon topped with a crisp noodle giving it another layer of texture.

It was like having a de-constructed, posh sweetcorn soup.

and more......

Butter (unsalted/salted)

A dollop of house churned butter with the option of salted or unsalted as you can see speckles of coarse sea salt on top of the butter.

This is to be served with a host of different house made breads including Oatmeal bread, Soda bread, Onion bread and Organic white bread.

House-made bread

And now we shall start......

Loin of Wild Rabbit. Almond, gingerbread, pear

I had the loin of wild rabbit with almond, gingerbread and pear. A very unique combination of flavours and textures that wonderfully came together.

The rabbit loin was very tender and well seasoned. Accompanied by spicy gingerbread, sweet pear purée, poached pear and fragrant reduced almond jus. It was absolutely delicious!

Pan Fried Scallop. Iberico ham, parsley

My friend had the pan fried scallop with Iberico ham and parsley.

Perfectly seared, the scallop was very juicy and sweet (fresh seafood sweetness). The saltiness of the wonderfully cured Iberico ham perfectly complimented the sweet scallops. Topped with fragrant parsley foam, this was a very well executed dish showcasing fresh scallops.

Grey Mullet. Smoked eel, avocado, shiso

My dad had the grey mullet served with smoked eel, avocado and shiso.

The grey mullet was perfectly seared giving a crisp skin. Served with smoked eel mousse wrapped in smoked eel, shiso and avocado jelly. The smokiness and sweetness of the eel, the sweetly bitter avocado jellies (adding freshness) which complimented the fish really well with different flavours and textures.

Seared Langoustine. Smoked bacon, potato, wild mushroom

My mom had the seared langoustine served with smoked bacon, potato and wild mushroom. The langoustine was very fresh and sweet although not as good as those we had in Red Skye Restaurant. Nevertheless, still a very nice dish with soft potatoes, crisp bacons, earthy wild mushrooms all carefully chopped to an even size and filled with flavours which compliments the sweet langoustine well.

Followed by the mains......

Hay Baked Venison. Celeriac, root vegetables, chocolate

I had the hay baked venison served with celeriac, root vegetables and chocolate sauce.

The venison had a really fragrant (like fresh out of the barn) and gamy taste to it. Surprisingly, the cocoa flavour of the chocolate complimented the venison really well as it intensifies the taste of the red meat.

The celeriac and root vegetables were all seasoned very well and cooked al dente.

Welsh Lamb. Garlic, charred leek, lamb sweetbreads

My dad ordered the Welsh lamb served with garlic, charred leek and lamb sweetbreads.

The lamb was pink and tender, served with smoky charred leek and the sweetbreads were a delight to eat!

Pan Fried Turbot. Cauliflower, wild mushroom, samphire

My mom had the pretty looking pan fried turbot served with cauliflower, wild mushroom and samphire.

I had to take the picture of the pretty drawing of the shape of a fish with cauliflower purée from an aerial view.

The turbot had a nice crisp to the top and was well cooked through. The samphire (like a seaside variety of asparagus) was a perfect match to the fish dish as it gave a 'taste of the sea'. Then you can find the subtle sweetness of the cauliflower purée coming through nicely to give the dish another dimension of flavour.

Label Anglais Chicken. Summer truffle, broad bean, asparagus

Now, I have to say that this was the star dish of the night.

Label Anglais chicken served with summer truffle, broad bean and asparagus.

Truffles are expensive for a few good reasons. Not only it is very difficult to find, a few shavings of the expensive stuff gives a wealth of flavour to an otherwise dull dish.

People rarely order a chicken dish as a main course, unless there are some reasons why they cannot have other meat, as chicken can lack flavour compared to other meats.

But this 'chicken cooked three ways' dish is an absolute delight! There were unusually tender chicken breast, crisp chicken croquet and tasty chicken sweetbread served with a sauce and purée made of chicken stock and truffle oil.

A delicious and sophisticated dish where every mouthful is an enjoyment of great culinary excellence!

Towards the end......


After some rich food, we were served this pre-dessert made of brownies, spiced pineapple cube-lets and pineapple sorbet.

To end......

Strawberry, Dark Chocolate

We ended the evening with a dramatic entry of 'strawberry and chocolate' on a box where smoke infused with strawberry scent was flowing out making it look as if the box was floating on a lake.

It was like having a 4D effect of culinary experience where first your sense of smell was triggered then you enjoy the taste of the food.

This was actually a de-constructed Strawberry Cheesecake made of cream cheese, strawberry ice cream, frosted strawberry pieces and vanilla ice-cream in a chocolate cone.

 Delicious and just nice after a rich meal!

Passion Fruit, Dark Chocolate

We also had the passion fruit and dark chocolate soufflé.

The soufflé had perfectly risen to a nice height and baked to a nice tint of brown.

The passion fruit and dark chocolate complimented each other well, although we thought the big 'chunk of passion-fruit flavoured jam' on the inside was less enjoyable.

Raspberry, Dark Chocolate, Strawberry

I had the lovely raspberry, dark chocolate and strawberry dessert made of raspberry sorbet filled with vanilla ice-cream, frozen strawberries and chocolate brownies.

A nice combination of sweet and citric taste.

Fig, Apple

My mom had the fig and apple dessert which was essentially a de-constructed fig and apple tart served with fig ice cream, apple jam and some honeycomb.

Although it looked beautiful, we did not enjoy this dessert as much as the others at it was generally too sweet.

People often have the presumption that fine dining means leaving the restaurant still hungry due to 'big plate, small portion' being served.

But we thoroughly enjoyed the nice experience with excellent service and our stomach filled.

I must compliment the chef for using new and original combinations of flavours to bring out the best of each main ingredients in the dishes! As well as using many different and modern techniques in preparing the dishes!

This was a truly Michelin Star experience!

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