Never let it be said that I’m not at the cutting-edge of the London food scene, but in the the week we finally managed to make it to Oldroyd for lunch – for once the Ewing’s choice, made after seeing endless pictures of their seasonal food on social media, nearly three years after they first opened, it was announced eponymous chef and owner, Tom, was to open a new French-inspired pub and dining room in Hackney.
While I was tempted to congratulate him in person, after spotting him sitting by the window as we were lead up to the bijou dining area on the first floor, he seemed engrossed in his laptop while singing along to the Isley Brothers, so I stuck with a bit of synchro humming along to Summer Breeze in solidarity.
Lunch sees a keenly priced set menu which features a short list of lovely-sounding seasonal things, all of which I wanted to eat. Of course, we had to start with a drink and what better than to herald a touch of mild weather after a battering from the Beast from the East, than a bottle of minerally, melon-scented Muscadet.
To start I chose calcots; the semi mythical vegetable from Catalonia that are often 'described as large spring onions or small leeks'. They are traditionally served barbecued or grilled, as they were here, with a romesco sauce made of roasted peppers and ground almonds.
While excited to try them, I was also a little dubious they could live up to their reputation. After all, what's all that exciting about a large spring onion or a small leek. It turns out quite a bit, especially when you've got a charred bit of outer leaf mixed up with a sweet bit from the centre, and topped it all with the smoky, nutty romesco, which was lick the plate good.
The Ewing's plate was an equally beautiful combo of salt code brandade, monk's beard and soft boiled egg. Of the two of the three elements I tried (#nobadegg) the salt cod puree was fluffy and light, yet rich and savoury. Monksbeard, or agretti, was another first. Dubbed an Italian samphire - it hails from Tuscany, where it was grown by monks, from which its name came - it was grassy and slightly salty and helped complete a perfect dish for an early spring day.
The special of the day (which can also be part of the set menu) was the rare breed pork tonnato; thin slices of cold meat (traditionally veal, but pork is common) in a creamy tuna mayo, anointed with capers, anchovies and oregano leaves. A dish that's seldom seen, it's one my very favourite things to eat and a must order when I do see it. Here it was perfectly assembled, leaving me - apart from the odd murmur of sheer joy - momentarily struck down in silent awe (a joyous moment for all those who experience it - TE). The perfect surf and turf.
To go alongside, and dredge through the leftover pools of glossy tuna mayo, a salad of beautiful butter-yellow castelfranco leaves, with their distinctive pink speckles, came dressed with a sweet and sour hazelnut dressing that took the edge off their gentle bitterness.
Hake, pink fir potatoes and watercress was another Insta dream. A tranche of boneless rolled fish was just cooked, so it flaked apart with little more than a nudge with the tine of the Ewing's fork; the waxy potatoes below bathed in a pool of verdant sauce.
The only duff note came with the Ewing's pudding choice; a scoop of rhubarb sorbet. Despite her grumbles that ice cream or sorbet wasn't a real pudding, she chose it anyway, then grumbled... To be fair it missed the excitement of the previous courses, being too sweet and missing the proper grimace that should accompany a good rhubarb pud. Still looked pretty in pink, though.
My apple and cinnamon tart with vanilla ice cream was my kind of pud, even though I had to share half with the Ewing and I could have probably eaten twice as much of it again. But then I am greedy. While usually an autumnal combo, there are few better things than apple and cinnamon at any time of the year.
While I might be off the pace, I've still got impeccable taste, and thankfully Oldroyd managed to exceed those exacting standards. Hopefully it won't take as long to get over to Hackney.