Restaurant Sat Bains

21 Jan

You may remember a little while ago I went to Fortnum & Mason to sample the food of Sat Bains. He left a comment on my blog explaining that the bits of puffed rice I so enjoyed the cardboardy taste of was the missing crackling I criticised about the dish. This made me exceptionally giddy because not only had someone read my blog, it was the man himself. It was my biggest blog success story yet and I think I rather excitedly told everyone I knew about it the next day.

Now you may also have noticed that a couple of weeks ago I listed my Top 10 Meals of 2011 and Restaurant Sat Bains came out tops. As lovely as it was, this was not referring to my F&M trip, but to a later excursion to his actual restaurant in Nottingham. I’m surprised Mark and I haven’t made it up there before as I think one of the first things he ever said to me was ‘yeah, and I really want to go to Restaurant Sat Bains’.

So early December we found ourselves sitting in Mark’s Nissan Micra in the car park watching one of the front of house staff peer at us from inside the restaurant in order that he open the door at just the right time. We tested his patience for a few seconds while I also got over a small bout of giggles, often incurred by excitement but also by funny situations, and we headed out the car and up the pathway into the warmth of Restaurant Sat Bains. The door was opened with grace and class.

We were given menus and we pretended to deliberate to stop ourselves from looking too greedy when we really wanted to shout ‘THE ONE WITH THE MOST FOOD’. There is choice between two tasting menus, one being smaller than the other. I was sad to wave goodbye to pearl barley, oxtail and smoked bone marrow as well as the apple-parsnip treacle sponge as part of the 7 courses. But then 10 courses does sound infinitely more appealing. On top of that we also decided to share Sat Bains’ winning dish from Great British Menu a few years ago – duck egg, ham and peas.

I also decided to go for the matching wines. I hoped that by going to more and more good restaurants I would begin to learn more about wine. Sadly, this is not the case, but I have learnt that it does get me pissed. I am a lightweight and just two glasses will have me gripping onto the table for balance. So obviously the promised ten glasses of wine to accompany my meal was a brilliant idea. I am telling you about my poor ability to handle alcohol in order to both explain and apologise about both my memory and the quality of the photos I took that night. I may not remember some of the finer details and almost every photo I took is completely blurred which is perfectly representative of my inebriation that night but is also a real shame because everything looked so exquisite. Ironically the only clear photograph was the following:

I will insert only the less awful of my poor collection of images and you will just have to take my word for it when I say something looked beautiful.

We had a very exciting amuse bouche titled NG7 2SA which is the postcode of the area. It was a horseradish panna cotta with nettle puree. Great to start things off with an easy texture (I’m like a baby, I love easy textures) and fresh savoury flavours. Palate definitely whetted. We were then presented with the famous duck egg. So it turns out that cooking an egg in a water bath at a very particular temperature for a number of hours will make it taste really really good. Like better than the extra £15 we had to pay for it. It created a wonderful thick, creamy and unctuous sauce over the sweet and refreshing peas and salty ham. I’ve never tasted anything like it and doubt I will again. There was a scoop of pea ice cream that stunned me with every bite because of the intense pea flavour. I would eat it again on a cone I enjoyed it so much, though maybe without a flake.

Now to hit the tasting menu. We started off with Scallop, Pork Belly, Crackling and Piccalilli. It was very similar to the pork dish we had at F&M so this time I took the opportunity to concentrate on the taste of the puffed crackling. The overriding taste was not of cardboard as I had originally stated, but of crackling. I now realise that I should probably not eat so fast in the future. Much like the one we tried before, this version with sweet scallops was very edible.

The next dish was another treat on the easy texture scale with ‘Fish Pie’. I think this was Mark’s least favourite dish because from what I remember it was ultimately some grated potato on top of some bits of flaky fish. Call me a girl of simple tastes or maybe even a girl who is boring, but I really liked it. It slid down my gullet like a treat and with minimal chewing effort. It wasn’t packed with flavour but because of that I found it comforting which I believe is the essential role of a fish pie, with or without the inverted commas.

Dish number three was probably my favourite. Another name in inverted commas, this one was called ‘Allium’. Apparently I am the only person in the world who didn’t know that allium means onion, something I found out when describing my meal to many in the weeks to come, and because of that I had no idea what to expect. I find my most favourite dishes are the ones that surprise me, and this one certainly did.  It consisted of a jar filled with french onion soup that was almost custard like in thickness and creaminess and onion oil, all topped off with crispy shallots. I am not a massive soup fan usually because it is the same with every mouthful, but when something has such perfect and intense flavour having just one substance to gulp down means that you can fully concentrate on what it tastes like. In this case a really good version of those onion ring crisps. Yes please.

English Duck with Asian Influences was a cold dish of duck liver parfait sandwiched between what I think was crispy duck skin. I enjoyed this very much and was glad we hadn’t peaked on protein too early as often a slab of hot meat will send me into a coma. The peanuts scattered around the sides were a welcome addition. This was followed by Salt Baked Celeriac with Chicken Juice. I don’t like celeriac as a well established rule. This stems from all the times when I was young where I would dip a spoon into a bowl of mash and bring it to my mouth expecting the bland comfort of potato only to be greeted by the taste of celery. I would despair at the cruelty of my mother and vowed never to eat it again. However, like most old laws, my prejudice against celeriac has now become dated. I am beginning to like it, especially when bathed in delicious chicken juice that I could have drank by the gallon. Just don’t try tricking me into believing it is potato.

Around this point my speech was becoming slurred and I was seeing double. Though I did manage to give off a responsible appearance as the sommelier (who was just brilliant) told me I was doing such a good job he would treat me to a bigger glass for my next course. I am not sure what job it was that I was doing so well but it is nice to have some appreciation all the same. Thankfully I was also presented with some meat to help soak up some of the alcohol in the form of Roe Deer, Cauliflower, Chocolate and Quince. Unfortunately that glass of wine really did take its toll on me all I remember is that I enjoyed it. 

I was offered a glass of port with my cheese course and I think my response was something along the lines of ‘OH MY GOD WHAT I WILL DIE’ so I didn’t take the sommelier up on the offer. The cheese course was a lot more exciting than the one at F&M but much along the same theme of a slice of cheese accompanied by some carbs. I shared with Mark some stilton with an eccles cake and truffle tournoise (I have no idea how to spell it) on top of some fried raisin bread. Mark asked if the tournoise was a brie as my sister who works in a cheese shop has been banging on about truffle brie since she started working there. We were told ‘no, it is a tournoise’ which is fair enough, but it tasted like truffle brie to me.

Three deserts followed after ‘The Crossover’ which was a blend of sweet and savoury flavours in the form of beetroot and goats cheese granita. Blackberries, Tarragon, Rocket and Vanilla was akin to the berry desert at F&M and was just as fabulous. So fresh! Chocolate, Coffee and Salt was a rich slab of a ganachy chocolate cake which was delicious but probably the least exciting dish on the menu. Sea Buckthorn, Pine and Meringue was most excellent. Almost like a sea buckthorn flavoured cheese cake, it was creamy but also had a great balance of sweet and sharpness.

We finished on a high and our bellies were the right kind of stuffed which means it didn’t involve pain. We were about to order some tea and ask for the bill but the sommelier stopped us in our tracks with another glass of wine and the words ‘I don’t know what you have done but they really like you in the kitchen’. Another dessert miraculously appeared and we were told it was inspired by cardboard and was cooked in a cardboard cup. It was the apple and parsnip treacle sponge I had lusted over only a couple of hours before! And I loved it!

We were then invited into the kitchen to meet Sat where I felt I had to explain that I do really like cardboardy tasting things, it was never a criticism. I would also like to take this opportunity to explain I do really like those onion ring crisps, so that is also not a criticism. As you can imagine I was very giddy and I found out he was not scary like I first thought – he was lovely!

I woke up the next day in a B&B wearing a hangover hat that I just could not remove and picked at the full english I had ordered the night before in a fit of hungry. The bacon was rolled into a sausage shape and I am still questioning why it was. On the long car journey back home Mark and I repeatedly asked each other ‘do you remember when we had that cardboard dessert?’. In fact we still ask each other that question but a little less frequently, maybe a couple of times a day. If that isn’t a sign of a meal well enjoyed, I don’t know what is.


One Response to “Restaurant Sat Bains”

  1. Gabs February 21, 2012 at 1:19 am #

    oh my god – how did i miss this post – what a classic

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