When we originally picked Leap Day as the day to finally tie the knot not having to celebrate annually seemed one of the selling points. Until I realised my wife actually wanted to celebrate on the last day of February and the first day of March. Roll on a few years and the lack of a definite day means the celebrations seem to now extend over a space of weeks.
Which is how we found ourselves at Bar Boulud, for a fancy lunch before seeing Massive Attack performing Mezzanine. Between realising one of my favourite albums is over twenty years old and I’ve been married for seven years (or one and three quarters, if you want to be pedantic about it) I felt sufficiently decrepit and was fully in need of a strong drink.
I fancied a dirty martini, which seems to have become a bit of an anniversary tradition, and while there is huge range of gins behind the bar, for reasons I couldn't fathom only a handful are actually listed on the drinks menu. Which seemed even stranger when the wine list resembled a volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Of the suggestions made by our waiter the Cambridge gin stood out as one we hadn't tried (or didn't have hoarded in the cupboard under the stairs at home) although it wasn't until he bought our drinks that he told us the back story of this being the first truffle infused - with the prized white variety from Alba - gin on the market. So caveat emptor if you don't like your drinks with an earthy and funky edge. I thought it was delicious, although I was still tasting fungi for hours afterwards.
Despite not really ever managing to find raw oysters anything more than 'meh', I was keen we had a dozen to share anyway. The Ewing, who knows exactly what I'm like (I normally eat one and then declare I am done) suggested six, but I was hell-bent on a dozen and had spent the morning saying douze huîtres in a more and more flamboyant French accent, until she gave in just to get me to stop.
You can see I looked pretty pleased when the huîtres arrived. Probably as I hadn't eaten one yet although I was steeling myself with the fact that the glutamate levels of oysters (providing the umami hit) are apparently highest in February and March, imbibing them with even more natural MSG. These looked lean and lithe and briny, although I think I'd have found anything sexy after drinking enough of the heady truffled gin.
While raw oysters aren't my fave I love vinegar with an unholy passion, so a spoonful of mignonotte sauce helped two of my four happily down. Followed by one with lemon and one au naturel, which confirmed that snot that tastes like you've been sea swimming is still not really my thing.
That left the Ewing with huit huîtres, which sounds like the perfect number when said in an annoying cod french accent. Well, it kept me amused. She enjoyed hers greatly, slurping and chewing happily between crusty hunks of bread and butter.
The burger was really what we were there for and I chose the flagship BB Burger - beef patty, foie gras and short ribs stuffed into a black onion seed bun with confit tomato, salad and horseradish mayo. The best way I can think to describe it is high-end basic. Quality ingredients compiled to taste like an excellent, messy ole burger, that drips down your wrists as you grapple with it – full points for bun integrity, that lasted until the last bite - and makes best advantage of the freshly laundered napkins.
The smoky patty was nicely pink (medium rare is the furthest they will go), the slick foie gras, although subtle, added further layers of richness and shredded short rib added some toothsome oomph. The confit tomato was a necessary addition to cut a swath through the richness, but sadly the expected sinus prickle of horseradish was too faint to play a supporting role.
Is it ever worth paying twenty four quid for a burger and chips? Debatable when I could have bought 16 of my beloved McDonalds double cheeseburgers with extra pickles, or three (and a mouthful) of Bleecker's bacon cheeseburgers or two and a half Dead Hippies. Although those prices are without fries and don’t come with a wine list that includes a Baron Thenard Montrachet 2008 at 125 pounds a glass to help it down.
The Ewing wasn’t up for going halves, so I can only piece together what her Piggie (17 quid) burger - topped with pulled pork and housed in a cheddar bun - was like from her comments, which included ‘spicy’ (from the jalapeño mayo) and ‘beefy’. Probably good that she proof reads this blog, rather than writing it. Although she’s far less verbose than me (and more sarcastic - TE), so maybe a rare treat for the reader….
She did have lots of positive words for the chips, mainly they were comparable with Maccy d’s, her benchmark for a good fry. They also give you a ramekin of proper ketchup, not some sort of posh artisan chutney that always tastes of sweet sadness.
As everybody now knows I’m an anti-sugar evangelist (bore - TE) and love to tell everyone at every opportunity I’ve quit the piles of the white stuff (obviously I’m joking, there is literally nothing less interesting than people telling you what they eat/don’t eat). While my resolve remains pretty much intact (honey roasted cashews definitely don’t count) I had already decided the lure of the soufflé du jour was probably going to be too much to resist.
My intention was to share with the Ewing, but as it happened she couldn’t resist the lure of the Pom-Passion - with hazelnut dacquoise, roasted apple sorbet, passion fruit jelly and vanilla mousse - so we ordered both. The apple desert was fine, if a little sweet (not unsurprisingly) for me. I gamefully managed a couple of half-forkfuls, just to be sure, although I did like the mouth-puckering intensity of the passionfruit jelly.
Despite asking what the soufflé was on two occasions neither of us had any idea what the waiter actually said in reply. Being English, we ordered it anyway and were rewarded with the an ethereal confection that tasted just as majestic as it looked. The soufflé was definitely orange-based, possibly Grand Marnier (from Googling it, that’s what Jay ate here when they first opened) although it didn’t taste especially boozy. Although nothing would after that martini. The ice cream was defiantly chocolate, and went nicely with the orange, if you like that sort of thing, which I very much do, although I still let my wife polish most of it off.
It's been said that marriage is like a souffle; beautiful, satisfying and fragile. Although, quite honestly, I'd go with too much sometimes make you feel sick and leaves you deflated (harsh - TE). Not sure that would shift as many Hallmark cards though. Still, there's no one else I want to take long afternoon naps with when half-cut on a Friday afternoon (me neither - TE). Which is exactly what we did after finishing this. Here's to many more years of sleeping and eating with my very favourite person. (Hear, Hear! Chin, chin - TE)