petrusMember since 15 Aug 2008
One hint is that if you are non-Chinese, like me, is that there is a small specials menu that goes along with the larger main menu and it is well worth asking for this if you are not given it when you sit down. I normally order at least a few dishes from this menu, though not yet the duck’s web with fish lips in hotpot – though that’s mainly due to not finding a dinner companion willing to share it with me!
It’s a busy place, set out over 3 floors, of which the most pleasant is the ground floor, the upstairs is busy and bustling, whereas the basement floor is the a bit more dingy. It’s always pretty full in the evenings, with that layman’s leading indicator of good food of a high proportion of Chinese people chowing down.
The last couple of times I’ve been in unfortunately they have run out of the roast duck. Last night we ended up ordering the soya duck, which was poached rather than roasted. This made the meat very tender, however I felt that this style of cooking the duck left a large amount of fat on the meat that on some pieces was a bit off-putting. Roasting the meat renders a lot more of the fat out, making it more appetising. Despite being tasty I probably would not order the soya duck again.
I tried to order something new, superior poached chicken with spring onion and chilli, only to be told by two waitresses that they would not recommend it for non-Chinese people! Apparently the chicken is not fully cooked and the dish is served on the bone and the bone may be slightly pink. In the end we played it a bit safer and went for grilled, fried lotus root stuffed with minced pork and pork chop with red bean sauce.
The lotus root with pork arrives more akin to patties of minced pork blended with the root and fragrant with spices. Very tasty and the portion of about 10 disappeared in no time! The pork chop had been cooked in paper and was served to the table as such. The sauce had caramelised around thin slices of pork and was delicious. The meat was perhaps slightly chewy but again there was none left by the end.
I like the Four Seasons, it’s always buzzing and offers a good selection of safe favourites to more adventurous dishes. Though get there early for the roast duck!
Including service and tea - £16 a head.
We all found the menu very appetising and unanimously agreed that we would happily eat it all! Waistlines and budgets precluded this tempting option and we set about the hard task of picking a starter, main and eventually dessert each. I went for the braised pigs cheeks with chorizo on garlic and parsley mash to begin. Around the table others went for tartare of tuna, poached duck egg and leek terrine and picked Cornish crab.
We had a bottle of Californian vignoier to accompany the starters, which was beautifully perfumed on the nose and light and clean on the palate. My pigs cheeks were excellent, perched on dollop of richly flavoured, smooth mash and topped with a thin slice of strongly flavoured chorizo plus a strip of crispy crackling. The meat was very tender and fell apart, the chorizo added a smoky, spicy note and the crackling was delicious. The rest of the table seemed very happy with their starters, with particular praise coming for the perfectness of the poached egg and the clean, light flavours of the tuna.
I stuck with the unashamedly carnivorous option for the main – fillet of beef, horseradish soufflé, girolles and oxtail raviolo. Other choices were lamb – roasted saddle and braised shoulder, the signature scallops and belly pork and ballotine of rabbit with roasted langoustine. To accompany a bottle of Argentinean Malbec that was full-bodied, smooth and very moreish.
One slight hiccup occurred when a waiter began to lay plates down on our table to general oohs and aaahs, but then the plates were whisked away when one of his colleagues realised they were destined for another table! Disappointment all round, but we had another sip of wine and waited for it to be our turn.
I have to say the beef was superb, an excellent cut that was very flavoursome. The horseradish soufflé was relatively dense; almost cake like, with the distinctive bite of horseradish shining through. The plump oxtail raviolo was stuffed with tender threads of meat interspersed with carrots and a rich sauce. A red wine reduction and sautéed girolles completed a heavenly dish.
The rest of the table seemed very happy with their selections, judging by the silence whilst initially tucking in and the empty plates at the end. We were all pleasantly full by this stage and felt the portion sizes were just right, not too small and not supersize-me-style big.
There was a gap before we made our dessert choices, long enough for us to persuade ourselves that a second bottle of Malbec was an excellent idea….
I finished off the evening with the chocolate fondant with pistachio ice cream from a dessert list that was full with lots of other desirable choices. When it arrived, it was beautifully presented and on cracking through the top it oozed out a very indulgent thick chocolate sauce. Often with fondants I find they have been slightly overcooked so the cake/sauce ratio is too much in favour of the cake, not so here! The pistachio ice cream was beautiful, almost a mousse in texture and had an exceptional flavour.
All in all we had a great time; the staff were efficient and not over-attentive. Tom himself came round the tables at the end and spent a few minutes having a bit of banter. He explained he is trying for a relatively informal style, where the waiters do not try and refill your wine glass every time you take a sip. I for one found that to be a relief and made for an enjoyable meal where th