I do love a bit of fine dining but don't go too often, mainly because the cost is so prohibitive. I love the food and wine but do baulk a bit at £80/£100/... a head too frequently. There are more cost effective ways to eat at such establishments though as most provide set lunches of some description, handy for ladies that lunch but not ideal if you have to work office hours as I do. We needed somewhere to dine yesterday though as a colleague is leaving and so decided to give one a go.
Being based in Mayfair the choice is fairly large but we decided upon Wild Honey, a pretty new entrant to the Michelin starred gang and from the same stable as Arbutus, a Soho establishment known for great value fine dining. At £16.95 for 3 courses it seemed a bargain, even if drinking was obviously going to have a fairly negative effect upon the bill. You have to sacrifice a bit for these set lunches with a reduced choice (two options per course) and a reduced portion size too, not that it was too obvious with the dessert.
Our choices were potato soup or pork slices with apple puree for starter, Cornish mullet with potato gnocchi or lasagna of veal shoulder for main and a pain perdu with seville marmalade or a portion of Brie de Meaux for dessert.
Starting off we all went for pork, as nice as I'm sure their potato soup would be it was just never going to compete with four men at the table. The dish was rolled belly pork, braised and then sliced very thinly. Apple puree provided some tart sweetness and the baby herbs some pepperiness. As much as there things to like about this dish, such as the beautiful texture and the apple puree, I was a little disappointed all told. The meat was bland in parts with the seasoning concentrated in spots, one mouthful was woefully underseasoned with the next an explosion of salt in the mouth. It was nice, don't get me wrong, but nothing too special.
Again the meat won for the second course with four orders of the lasagna of veal shoulder. Whilst more a ragu between two sheets of pasta, constructed post cooking rather than baked, this was nothing short of amazing. Without a doubt the finest ragu and pasta to ever pass my lips. The pasta was delicately thin but still toothsome. The ragu was rich, meaty and seasoned to perfection, melt in the mouth veal with cubes of vegetables which at first resisted the squash of the tongue against the palate (there was really no need to go so far as chewing) before giving way in a little burst of sweetness. Superlative.
No one was too keen on brie, de Meaux or not, so we made a pact to share a proper cheeseboard after our dessert and kept up the theme by all ordering the pain perdu, seville marmalade. The pain perdu (eggy bread) was good but not perfect. Everything stuffed in the mouth at once Masterchef judge style made for a pleasant dessert, the sweet ice cream and bread being a good foil to the bitter seville orange. The pain perdu on its own though had a bit of a bitter taste, as if over caramelised I think. A slightly tough bottom edge suggested a little overcooking on one side too. There wasn't a scrap left on any of our plates by the end though which says something.
The cheeseboard was an on display affair, sat proudly in the middle of the restaurant right behind us and I got the pleasure of choosing. We had a bleu d'Auvergne, a Montgomery's cheddar, Epoisse and then another blue and another washed rind whose names completely evade me now. All were fine examples, nutty for the washed rind, fantastically mature for the cheddar and smooth and salty for the blue. Throughout the meal we were also given masses of very good sourdough bread, so much that I had to stop taking it after a while.
With two bottles of wine between four and cheese it came in about £36 a head, a step up from the £16 food bill but not bad for food like this, when they got it right that is. It has definitely made me want to go back and give the a la carte menu a go, something I think would only add maybe £20 a head to the bill, which thinking how impressive some of the mains around us were looking doesn't sound too bad at all.
12 St George Street