Monday, September 1, 2008

Organic delights at Acorn House

Acorn House Restaurant
69 Swinton street
London WC1X 9NT 
t: 0207 812 1842
I booked Acorn House for a special anniversary meal for the Veggie and I. I had been aware of the restaurant for a while especially when working in the area and knew it had garnered much praise since its opening. I also wanted somewhere that was imaginative when it came to Vegetarian food.

We arrived on time for our booking and were shown to a table along the far wall. I am not a fan of restaurants where one diner sits on a chair whilst the other has the more comfortable sofa style seating, but the atmosphere was good. One thing that was apparent was that it really isn't a very large restaurant at all, as it started to fill up it did become rather crowded and the close proximity of fellow diners is slightly off-putting (after all one wants to be close enough to over-hear tempting titbits of conversation but not so close as to feel one must always look ahead to avoid appearing to stare).  I must also admit that I was slightly disappointed with the menu. It should be noted that Acorn House operates a seasonal policy when it comes to dishes so next month's menu will be quite different. In fact the July menu looked fab, it was just that I did not find the August one very inspiring. 

We ordered a bottle of champagne as we were celebrating and the organic bread and butter (at 2.00 not covered by the service charge) to nibble on. We were both very hungry and keen to order. It was therefore with some disappointment that I was told that the White peach and Mozzerella starter that I was planning to order was subject to an alteration: the mozzerella was off to be replaced by prosuitto. Now, this would alter the dish quite considerably, but I chose to go ahead (only slightly mourning the creamy cheese I was expecting) because it's accompanyments of purple basil, honey and balsamic sounded so enticing. For my main course I selected the sea trout, pan-fried with courgettes, tomatos and basil oil. 

The Veggie opted for the French Onion Soup with St Montgomery cheddar croutons, as it is one of her favourites. She surprised me by ordering the Gnocchi for her main, as she had previously disliked it when we had it at home. 

Service was pleasant and attentive and it was nice to be able to see the kitchen in full operation without having to be seated at that most annoying of current fashions, the 'Chef's table', why one would want to be in the midst of all the controlled chaos of the kitchen, surrounded by sweaty and sweary staff I will never know...  

The Acorn House cookbook was rather too heavily advertised on the menu and around the dining area. One imagines that Arthur Potts Dawson, the executive head chef, is only a hairs breadth away from his own channel 4 show. This slightly smug rake judged my previous workplace's away day tasks and came across as taking himself and the event rather too seriously. But then where would the 'celeb' chef be without the overarching ego and supportive quote from Jamie Oliver?

Back to the food and it has to be said that my starter worked very well, albeit with a rather different overall flavour than that which would have been produced by the mild cheese being present. The white peach was beautifully ripe, fragrant and shiny with its own juices; a wonderful ingredient. The italian ham was pleasantly salty and the dressing as described earlier was a thing of perfection. This was definitely the sort of culinary magic that I had come to Acorn House for and this dish delivered it in spades. 
I sampled some of the Veggie's silky, thick onion soup, it was delicious. The only negative comment received was that it was rather too large a portion. However it was judged a classic that was confidently carried off with what was obviously the finest ingredients at their peak. A big thumbs up from the Soup connoisseur.
My main course of sea trout was again perfectly cooked; the skin crisp and the flesh melting in the mouth. The accompanying courgette was succulent and the juices combined with the fish and the tomatoes and basil formed a delicately and tasty jus. The only thing that sullied the dish for me, and was purely due to how I was feeling, was that I simply hadn't really wanted to eat fish that evening. However I didn't really find the rest of the main course attractive either. As I said, a purely contrary viewpoint!
The Veggie was well and truly converted to Gnocchi by her main. The medium sized pillows of dough were lightly browned and fluffy, containing their own mixture of cheeses. She wasn't able to finish the dish due to how filling her starter had been but she certainly enjoyed this version of the dish and I'm sure would eat it again.

Neither of us were able to tackle dessert which was disappointing as the various options were tempting.

The meal would have been perfectly reasonable and worth while if it wasn't for our luxurious bottle of bubbly. As it was it came in at just over 110 pounds including 10% service. The neat touch of a packet of seeds rather than a packet of matches coming with the bill brought a smile to our face. I would return to the restaurant and recommend it but I would advise checking the seasonal menu first.

Scores on the doors: 7 out of 10

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