A few days before our wedding, Blai and I and an old friend of mine, Roxanne, from Vancouver were going to attend a late night prom over at the Royal Albert Hall. Of course, it being a late night concert, there was plenty of time to meet for dinner beforehand. I’d never been to Racine on Brompton Road (in spite of my recommending it to other friends!) and thought it best to rectify this. When I entered, I saw that the space itself reflected the kind of food I was expecting – bistro food: a darkly lit room, tightly packed tables, a sea of pristine white tablecloths, and a heavy curtain enclosing the doorway. It sounds terribly cliched but if it weren’t for the fact that all the waiters spoke English, I could have imagined myself somewhere in Paris (the Catholic Church across the road doesn’t help either).
Poor Roxanne was a little late due to the Great Handbag Incident of 2009 but I sat there at our little table nibbling on the proffered bread and butter until both first Blai and then she arrived. Yay to the service here – I was offered a newspaper to read when I started looking bored. When she did arrive, we all got busy deciding what we’d eat.
Both Blai and Roxanne started with the Smoked duck, French bean and girolle salad. I can’t remember much about it but they cleared their plates. Must be good then.
I’d never had brains before and was keen to try them…and what better place to try them surely? Calf’s brains, black butter and capers for me then! The brains were served whole (well, in their halves), dusted in flour and pan fried before being topped with a very punchy black butter, caper and parsley sauce. The astringent sauce cut through the richness of the brains, which I loved when I got a bit of the crispy brown edges but loved less when it resembled foie gras custard a little too much. It was very very rich. I would definitely eat it again though but perhaps in a half portion.
To follow, I chose the Grilled rabbit, mustard sauce and smoked bacon (mainly based on the recommendation of another friend who I’d sent to Racine the previous year, also for a pre-prom dinner). The rabbit was one of the plumpest I’ve ever encountered and was moist and tender. On the side was a bowlful of large boiled new potatoes, a little dull but I made do by smearing them in the mustard sauce.
Blai had the Rump of lamb, haricots vinaigrette, deep fried artichokes and a piment d’Espelette aioli. His serving almost looked like a stew, a symphony of brown on the plate, but really all the components were just piled up there. The lamb was tender, the beans soft, and the artichokes…um…I don’t recall if I had a taste. The aioli, which came in a little ramekin on the side, was delicious and I also smeared lots of it on my potatoes.
The last in our trio chose the Breast of guinea fowl, peas, broad beans and tarragon. This was the tastiest chicken guinea fowl I’ve had (not that I’ve had many examples). It was accompanied by a generous side of smooth mash.
Though we were already quite full (we couldn’t get through all the potatoes), we searched inside for that little extra pocket of space that always seems to exist for dessert. I wanted the Cherry clafoutis, creme anglaise and yes, I got it. Why have I never made this dessert before?! The cherry clafoutis is gorgeous and I wish I had room for another. Blai and I were also licking the creme anglaise out of its tiny little jug.
After getting a description from our waiter, Blai went for the Saint Emilion de Chocolat. Our waiter described it as a chocolate mousse like thing but it was far from mousse-like; it was more like a little hockey puck of a dark chocolate ganache! It was ridiculously rich and we all tried to help him finish it. Blai did soldier on though and the plate was eventually cleaned.
Roxanne had the lemon sorbet, shot of Stolichnaya vodka. A huge gobletful of sorbet came along and she doused it all with the shot of vodka. The sorbet was beautifully lemony and refreshing and we helped ourselves with her permission.
Remember how I said the tables were tightly packed? A couple of older ladies, former Sloane Ranger types, sat next to us and one actually leaned over to look at our table to see what we were eating. Her face was almost in my dish. Watch it, lady, that’s mine! If you want something less claustrophobic, perhaps it’s best to ask for one of the coveted window seats. There was not a single fault with service that I could think of and it’s altogether a pleasant place to have an excellent meal. I estimate our meal to have cost about £35 per person (but only an estimate as kind Roxanne took us out for our meal – thank you!).
Oh, the prom that night was fantastic too – four of Bach’s motets sung by the Monteverdi Choir and performed by the English Baroque Soloists, conducted by Sir John Eliot Gardiner.
239 Brompton Road
London SW3 2EP
[Aside: Wow, we ate out a lot during that week and a half surrounding our wedding and I’ve still got a few places to blog about where we ate with friends and family. I fear that July will be a great weight-gaining month for us in the future what with our birthdays and now a wedding anniversary to celebrate. Gulp. Needless to say, we’re currently eating…a lot less.]