On Saturday Pete and I went to the Glasshouse Restaurant by Kew Gardens for lunch.
We’d been given a card at the end of our recent meal at La Trompette (which is owned by the same partnership as Glasshouse and Chez Bruce). As at La Trompette the 3 course menu is priced at £37.50 of an evening but is only £25 for Saturday lunch. The card was a voucher offering these menus for half price (until end March) and since the menu offered for Saturday lunch is the same as the evening ones, we figured that £12.50 for a such a meal was too good an offer to pass up. Especially since my sister (who’d also taken one of the cards when we dined at La Trompette together) had done the very same thing the previous Saturday and said the food was every bit as delicious as our experience at La Trompette!
We made the reservation late on Friday evening (having just got home from dinner with my family in Luton, which is when my sister let us know all about her meal at Glasshouse). The earliest they could offer was 2pm, which I took, but asked them to call me back if a reservation for an earlier table became available. I was pleasantly surprised when they did call on Saturday morning to offer us a noon slot instead.
We arrived promptly at midday and were seated at a table by the window and given the menu and winelist. We were then ignored for the next 20 minutes, which was surprising, as the staff weren’t busy preparing the restaurant, but standing around at the reception. Just as I was about to call for someone’s attention, they came and took our order. This was the only lapse in service; we were looked after attentively from that point forward.
After taking our orders, they offered a choice of wonderful home-made breads, some of them still warm. I was greedy and went for two slices, one of walnut and raisin and another of rosemary and sea salt. Also on offer were black olive bread and a poilane, which may have been wholemeal, not sure.
For starters Pete ordered warm salad of wood pigeon with balsamic vinegar and deep fried truffled egg and I went for the foie gras and chicken liver parfait with dressed lentils, walnut and raisin toast. Ever sweettoothed, and knowing the pate would be rich and smooth, I asked for a glass Pedro Ximenez to accompany it. The sommelier did pop over to check, as he felt it may be too sweet for my starter, especially with the lentil element, but I stuck to my guns and really enjoyed it. Pete ordered a glass of red wine which he nursed through both starter and main.
Not usually a fan of lentils, I was surprised at how much I loved the layer of firmly cooked green lentils mixed (I think) with thinly sliced young spring onions and lightly bound with a touch of olive oil. Beneath this was a generous helping of rich, smooth parfait which went well with the slight sweetness of the walnut and raisin toast.
Pete’s salad was probably the winner of the two starters though it was a close call. As well as the deeply gamey pieces of pigeon it included lardons, green beans and crispy frisée lettuce drizzled in balsamic and topped with the egg, oh the egg! Covered in panko-style breadcrumbs fried to a pale golden brown, when Pete cut into it the white was perfectly firm and the yolk beautifully runny and a deep, dark amber colour.
To follow I had the roast duck breast and pastilla of duck confit with parsnip purée, cranberries and almonds. When it came, it was also topped with long, wavy parnsip crisps so finely sliced they were almost translucent. The duck was cooked perfectly pink and was tender and full of flavour, amongst the very best I’ve tasted. The pastilla was formed into a long crunchy cigar and was more about the pastry than any filling – I preferred the pastilla in La Trompette’s duck dish. The parnsip puree made a lovely and soft bed for the rest of the dish was surrounded by a serving of thin sauce, neither a thick gravy nor a thin jus, somewhere in the middle. It gave an extra meaty flavour. The duck was served on top of spinach with cranberries and almonds scattered below and above it. I’d not been sure how these would work with the duck, whether they’d overwhelm the flavour or simply be superfluous but, as I should have expected given the deft touch of the chefs, they were an excellent addition, even for someone who doesn’t much like cranberries. The cranberries were sweet rather than sharp and the almonds gave the dish a nice crunch.
Pete chose the scotch beef cottage pie with purple sprouting broccoli, reasoning that if they’d put such a simple dish in amongst the other grander ones, it was bound to be well executed. It was. The filling combined beef, green beans, broadbeans, carrots and mushrooms in a strongly savoury and rich sauce which Pete said was particularly good because it packed in such depth of flavour without resorting to salt. It was topped with a plain potato mash and served with simple, unadorned broccoli.
Already stuffed, we were determined to have dessert anyway! Pete said his crème brulée was one of the best he’s had with a thick, crunchy burnt sugar topping covering a really unctuous cream generously flecked with real vanilla. I had the tiramisu with affogato. The tiramisu, in a small pot, was so alcoholic it actually made me do that funny little huffing noise Torode does on Masterchef when he’s expressing surprise about the amount of chilli or alcohol. Of course, this was no bad thing and, even stuffed as I was, I managed about two thirds of it. The ice-cream for the affogato was a sweet, creamy vanilla which slowly melted under the espresso. A good kick of caffeine to wake me up for a walk around Kew Gardens.
Having stuck to (chilled) tap water plus just the one glass of red wine and one of PX, our bill was an extremely reasonable £38 onto which 15% service was added. Under £44 for two for this kind of food is an unbelievable bargain. (It has a michelin star, same as sister-restaurant, La Trompette and, again, I can see why).
Location is just by the Kew Gardens tube station and about 3 or 4 minutes walk from the Victoria Gate entrance to Kew Gardens.