Dinner at Apsleys
In my lifetime I have not been able to take part in a lot of the finer things in life. In fact, before meeting Jade, I would consider my quality of appetite and overall quality of life to be below average. I was a young bachelor who grew up sheltered in the woods of the Pacific Northwest, so my ignorance to all the wonders of the world were to be expected. Only in the past half a decade have I been allowed the chance to begin refining my taste for life. I felt blessed to be rewarded a trip to the United Kingdom and take in all that I had missed out on all of my life. London has some of the most beautiful and eloquently decorated restaurants in all of the world and I was thrilled to see them. While ultimately we did not have time to visit enough of the cities fine dining locations, we had the great fortune to be invited to Apsleys by the wonderful staff of The Lanesborough. Apsleys is the in-house restaurant at the hotel and is overseen by Heinz Beck, a world renowned Michelin star chef. If you would have told me even three years ago that I would be in London being served exquisite fare prepared by some of the best chefs in the world I would have counted you crazy.
Jade and I both were extremely excited to take in the lovely atmosphere of the dining room again after having Afternoon Tea there earlier that week. The decor and stunning Venetian design seemed to magically change into a whole different place with the warm, evening lit ambiance. We don’t always get the opportunity to dress up for an evening of class so we used this this one to dress to the nines. If I was going to be present in a brilliant, sparkling dining room, I wanted to at least attempt to match. We came down from our room to fulfill our reservations and took our seat at perfect table in the back where we could see all the beauty surrounding us. We ordered the tasting menu to try a little of everything offered by our hosts. I began the evening with a glass of pinot noir and Jade a glass of prosecco, our usual and favorite of dinner drinks. The house baked bread that was served was absolutely fantastic and was made up by an array of focaccia, thin crisp bread and bread sticks. Easily some of the best bread I have ever had the delight in sampling.
The tasting menu consisted of seven courses, each one more mouth watering than the next. We started with an appetizer of a perfect lamb morsel, crusted and finished with a coulis. I have never had a bite of lamb that was more tender and explosive with flavor. The following course consisted of a gorgeous scallop with liquorice, smoked potatoe purée, fennel and pink grapefruit. The combination of flavors were intensely interesting, and we both were delighted to see scallop amongst the courses since it is one of our favorite things to order wherever we go. You can definitely tell the quality of a restaurant by their scallop preparation and this was possibly the best we had ever had the good fortune to consume.
Third of the courses was a delicate and flavorful fagottelli carbonara, (something we definitely going to attempt to recreate,) which is a signature dish of chef Beck.The filling is compiled of pecorino cheese, egg yolks and cream which combine to make the most pleasing burst of flavor. The surrounding accoutrements consist of a veal stock, zucchini and Roman bacon. Definitely the best pasta dish I have ever had, bar none. The fourth and beginning of what would be main courses was wild sea bass in a fine herbed crust with sweet red pepper and San Marzano tomatoes. The coulis that surrounded the bass added just the right amount of acidity to compliment the bass’s flavor. The next course was one of our favorites (although we loved each dish) of the night, the most tender, perfectly prepared, spice rubbed beef. Accompanied by a bed of mixed vegetables and a pleasing, flavorful foam, I don’t think I have even seen preparation like this in real life. It was an absolute delight to be able to experience food in such a unique and creative way.
Our sixth course, and believe it or not our waiter told us that this was a palette cleanser before dessert, was a decadent bite of cheesecake with a delicate quenelle and caramelized crisp. It was so hard not to consume it all at once and every single measured bite was absolute heaven. The final course, last but certainly not least, dessert. Milk chocolate cylinder, chocolate spiral and dome, with a coconut and pineapple quenelle sorbet. It was almost a crime to begin eating because it felt like destroying a masterful work of art. Luckily we overcame our inhibitions and the combination of flavors turned out to be exactly what it looked like: art.
After finishing our meal and readying ourselves for departure, we were introduced to the chef and thanked him for his brilliant work. He was a humble, generous man and appreciated our presence. I began my evening believing that these small, delicately plated dishes would not be able to satisfy my American appetite… but how wrong I was. The purity and richness in the ingredients and masterful preparation filled me up ten fold; mind, body and spirit. It was all an incredible experience that I knew then and still believe I will be hard pressed to match. One of the very difficult things about being introduced to such magnificence and elite levels of culinary cuisine is that it, in a small way, ruins the rest of the food you will eat for the rest of your life because it pales in comparison. Thankfully memories fade and hearts yearn for what they once had, which is perfect reason enough to return to Apsleys one day soon for another life changing experience.