Lunch@The Artist, Bucharest

We are in Bucharest and we are looking for an unforgettable food experience. After a little research, we have settled on lunch at The Artist . Dutch chef, Paul Oppenkamp uses the kitchen at The Artist to create ‘delicious sculptures through the magic of texture, flavour and colour’. We are excited at the prospect.

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The restaurant is quiet when we arrive but it soon starts to fill up. I order a bottle of Ursus, a popular local Romanian lager. It is significantly better than other local beers I have tasted but that is not saying much – Romanian beer has not yet reached the heights of some of its European neighbours. Rock has The Artist Cocktail – a combination of lemongrass and elderflower, topped up with prosecco.  She is already enjoying herself.

The menu here is full of interesting dishes and they offer the option of spoon tasting! If you want to try all the starters, for example, they will give you a spoonful of each as your starter. Even the bread here is an event – small fresh, delicate rolls are served with olive oil foam and a special salt. Beautiful.

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Parmesan roll with olive oil foam

Then we have a dramatic amuse-bouche. Whipped brie, granola and an intense orange gel served on a bowl of dry ice and accompanied by sunflower seed crackers. Wow – great food with built in entertainment!

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Whipped brie, granola and orange gel

Unusually, Rock and I choose the same starter, hot smoked grilled trout with polenta, black garlic, onions, and whipped white cheese wrapped in a tomato gel. The trout is presented in a glass dome filled with smoke and the accompaniments are set out in a curve around the edge of the plate. Beautiful to look at and beautiful to eat.

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Hot smoked grilled trout, polenta, black garlic, whipped cheese & tomoto gel

No spoon tasting yet but it’s coming soon. Rock decides to have the white cod for her main – served with zucchini, cauliflower, eggplant and a gentle curry. It is sensational. But I’m going for spoons – I have a spoon of every main course – white cod, chicken, jumbo prawn, veal fillet, sea bass and lamb fillet. The portions give you enough to understand and appreciate the flavours of each dish but not so much as to make you feel like a glutton.

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White cod, zucchini, cauliflower, eggplant and curry.
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Spoons of lamb fillet, jumbo prawn, chicken, sea bass & veal fillet.  Bowl of white cod.

We don’t want this experience to end so, without really needing more food, we decide to share the dessert spoons. Another bit of theatre now follows. Paul comes out of the kitchen with a pestle and mortar. He places the mortar, which contains orange zest, mint and basil leaves in front of Rock. He pours dry ice over the leaves to freeze them and asks Rock to crush the leaves with the pestle. This releases the fabulous smell of mint, basil & orange and, into the crushed leaves, he drops a ball of cucumber sorbet – this is both a palate cleanser and a stunning first dessert.

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Cucumber sorbet with mint, basil & orange zest

The sorbet is followed by spoons of strawberry & white chocolate, a chocolate cigar with salted caramel and coconut and a raspberry cone with berries. Extraordinary. We draw out the experience further with great coffee and an exquisitely intense chocolate truffle.

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Spoons of salted caramel, chocolate & coconut, raspberry cone & berries, strawberry & white chocolate

The Artist is a very civilised, quiet and unassuming restaurant. The people here are polite, very helpful and very keen that their diners enjoy themselves. The food is presented in extraordinary ways and the flavours match the aesthetics. This has been one of the best eating experiences we have had anywhere in the world. It has been truly unforgettable.

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Dinner@The Oxo Tower Restaurant, Southbank

We have spent the afternoon at the theatre.  Now we all need to find more drama for the evening…..there are few things more dramatic than the views of the London skyline at night seen from the Oxo Tower Restaurant.  Importantly, we do not expect the food to be upstaged by the scenery.

Tonight’s cast includes our friends from the north – Rufus and Lani – who we met up with earlier at the theatre.  We are all looking forward to dinner and start with a curtain raiser of margaritas for two, a G&T and a glass of Gassac Blanc.

Now we are really ready for the action to begin and both Rufus and I choose the Suckling Pig Belly for our first act.  Lani, who always enjoys a good chat, strikes up a dialogue with a Warm Dorset Crab, presented in a single cannelloni – while Rock ad libs with a very flavourful Speck Tart with Seville Orange.

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As the plot unfolds it is clear that most of the leading characters will be eating fish during the second act. It would be a tragedy to pick a wine that does not play its part.  A bottle of O Rosal Albarino manages to combine both floral fragrance with just a whisper of acidity and a lingering finish. Lani chooses the Monkfish with mussels, Rufus and I both select the Turbot served with a small but delightful box of shredded crab.  Rock decides not to have fish and instead improvises by choosing the Herb Risotto Ball with Almond cream.

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For the final act, Rock and I share a slightly downbeat Rhubarb Mascarpone with Pistachio Sponge.  Rufus and Lani are more heroic and both choose the intense Passionfruit Souffle.  Glasses of Muscat and Sauternes help to bring the curtain down – though I’m not certain any of us are now in a suitable state for a long standing ovation.

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Dinner @ the Green Man & French Horn, Covent Garden

London is a great place for theatre and it is always useful to find restaurants with a decent pre-theatre menu.  Green Man & French Horn serves French country cuisine which is full of flavour and their pre-theatre menu comes at a reasonable price.  They are more than happy to cater for customers who need to fit in dinner before visiting a show.

We only had the briefest of times to spend there.  Rock waded into the Pumpkin Soup with Chestnuts and Sage while I went for the Ham, Wild Mushrooms and Mogette Beans.  For the second blog meal in a row, Rock made the better choice – the Pumpkin Soup was wonderful.  My dish was good but really felt like a more sophisticated version of bacon & beans.

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I found time to drink two glasses of the house red, Le Carre du Prieur, which was beautiful and I drank the second with a plate of home-made bread with some fabulous French blue cheese Bleu d’Auvergne – more like Stilton than Roquefort.

The service was very good and very accommodating.  No one was concerned about Rock just having soup or about my choice of cheese – which was not the one on their pre-theatre menu of the day. We probably need to spend more time here to do this restaurant justice.