An article by James Coldrey-Mobbs – A Coverpoint Consultant
When I first saw Agnar Sverrisson on ‘Saturday Kitchen’ back in February this year, his dishes immediately caught my eye and I made a mental note to find a good reason to visit his restaurant, Texture, in London. Well what better reason than my partner’s birthday, a real opportunity to spoil her. I booked our table about four weeks in advance via their online booking system, a first for me as I usually prefer the traditional and safer, telephone. Three days before the meal, I was still awaiting a call back from Texture to confirm my booking, so in a mild panic I called and was thankfully re-assured that they did have us booked in. It always happens when going for “special meals” , you get ‘pre-match’ nerves, filled with the anticipation that it might just not live up to expectations. How wrong I was…!
Unlike the current “hot spell” we fond ourselves running through the streets around Marble Arch with a broken umbrella in hand, wind and rain beating our faces, desperately trying to avoid huge puddles as buses and cars raced by. We finally arrived at Texture and were immediately welcomed in. Five minutes later, our jackets and broken brollie were out of sight, we were at our table kicking back with a G&T in hand – always a good benchmark to predict how things are going to turn out.
I had read a few reviews online before our visit which offered the strong opinion that if you don’t opt for the Tasting Menu, then your choice becomes quite limited. I have to say, I disagree. The menu choice was fantastic, with five mouth-watering starters and five mains. We decided to go ‘à la carte’, choosing the two dishes from each course that tempted us the most. We shared, creating, we like to think, our own personalised tasting menu! Thankfully, our tastes are pretty much in tune with one another and there was very little negotiation or compromise from either side when it came to choosing our dishes.
After placing our order, the sommelier came over to explain the wine list and offer his advice. Although I know a bit about wine, I was more than happy to take his advice when it came to recommending a bottle to complement our meal, he is the expert after all. Often, when you ask for a recommendation, the waiter or sommelier automatically turns to the back page and tells you how good the most expensive bottles of wine are, but this was not the case at Texture. He knew exactly what we had ordered and recommended a beautiful Tesch (German Riesling) to go with our meal. His choice was exceptional.
G&T half gone, food ordered and wine on its way, it was now time to really relax, enjoy our surroundings and wait for the onslaught of flavours and textures served on our plates. The first dish, an amuse bouche of ‘Pea and Mint Tea’, was delicate but packed a flavour punch with every mouthful. A perfectly set, warm and creamy custard like pea soup, topped with mint granita, fresh peas and shoots. We also had brought over to the table a small individual bread board and a smooth rock with a dollop of churned butter on top. I will be the first to admit that I adore bread and am easily pleased with a warm crusty loaf, but this bread was absolutely out of this world. It was that kind of ‘dangerous bread’ as the crust was so crunchy and crispy, that with every mouthful you ran the risk of it hitting the roof of your mouth. Needless to say, I didn’t think twice when the waiter asked if we would like some more.
For starters we sampled a dish of ‘Anjou Quail’ served with sweetcorn, shallot and bacon popcorn, which added an unusual and different texture to the dish. The quail ballotine was cooked to perfection and the small salty quail leg lollipops gave a salty element to the dish. However, the star of the show was the ‘Norwegian King Crab’ served with a Thai infused coconut ice and pickled ginger. The dish was perfectly balanced and you could still taste the fresh crab over the ginger and Thai ice. I have always been dubious about serving ‘ices’ with warm food, questioning whether it really works, but it does, when done well. As you put the food into your mouth, the ice instantly melts and bursts into life, tingling its way around.
Hugely impressed already, I could not wait for our main courses. I went for the ‘English Veal’, a dish served with the meat done three ways; the best end, the cheek and the tongue. The best end was cooked to perfection, still rosey in the middle and the tongue was utterly ‘melt-in-the-mouth’. Much to my annoyance, I was told the tongue was sous-vied for 12 hours overnight at 75 degrees – well there goes me trying that one at home then! The veal was served with white asparagus, garlic leaves, a lemon cream and a delicious veal jus. My partner chose the ‘Cornish Turbot’ served with scallops, sea vegetables, quinoa and a bonito broth. The broth, scallops and sea vegetables were delicious, a real fresh, lemony, seafood flavour. Whilst the turbot was poached to perfection, it did get a little lost in the competition among a host of strong flavours. I think a more robust and meaty fish would have stood up to the challenge better.
Then it was onto dessert. A little pre-dessert arrived consisting of kiwi granita and spiced sabayon and was brought over to the table before the main event – a coconut cake, served with a chocolate ganache and milk ice cream and a salted caramel dish served with ‘chocolate soil’. The coconut cake was delicately toasted on top and the ganache was smooth, velvety and extremely rich. The salted caramel dish was the one I was slightly unsure on, but we chose it because of the ‘chocolate soil’ element. However, as with everything else on the night, once again, we were not disappointed. The bottom of a bowl was layered up with a salted caramel base, scattered with chocolate soil on top, a mixture of eight different seeds and nuts, chocolate shavings, strawberries, grapes, milk ice cream and edible flowers. Even now, when I write it down, it does not sound like the flavours should go, but it was one of the best desserts I have ever had. You could taste every single element of the dish and together they formed some kind of perfect partnership that I had never tasted before, but I want to taste again.
‘Absolutely fantastic,’ we explained to our waiter as he cleared our table. ‘There is still more to come,’ came his enthusiastic reply. Along with our coffees, we were served a wonderful array of petit four, all served on cocktail sticks balanced in a large bowl of slate. Rich velvety chocolate truffles, light and fluffy macaroons, rich, buttery madeleine’s and ‘Fishermans Friend’ meringues, all served complimentary along with our espressos.
I have not mentioned the service yet, but that’s not because there is nothing to say about it, but more because I was completely blown away by the quality of the food that was put in front of me. The service was exceptional. Not once did I see a waiter stop and look around for something to do, or seem unsure of their task. They were all constantly moving around, but never looked rushed, every team member was friendly, polite and very knowledgeable about the menu.
I would have absolutely no hesitations in recommending Texture to anyone, in the right context. Casual dining it isn’t! The total bill came to £225 (including service) for two people – but when you consider that included a G&T each, six courses in total, wine and service, it was fantastic value for money. You don’t have to look far in London to spend over £200 for a table of two, but you do have to look far if you want to pay that price for this quality. The entire meal was faultless and surprisingly (again as it was not what we expected) we both left feeling full to the brim. This was mine and my partner’s first foray into Michelin star dining and boy what an introduction!
P.S, Glad the boss helped out with the bill!