The Glasshouse (London, UK)

During our visit to the UK, my parents were also visiting as part of their 50th anniversary celebration (sorry it took so long to write this one up, folks…). My brother and I decided to take them (and our aunt) out for a nice family outing, so we opted for a trip to the Kew Gardens area, having a nice dinner at The Glasshouse followed by a walk in the Gardens.

Set just outside the surprisingly pleasant courtyard outside the Kew Tube station, the Glasshouse (named for the large glasshouse at the nearby gardens) isn’t actually a glasshouse, but it is a pleasantly cozy but well lit dining room.

What works well at The Glasshouse is that they have a rather nice price fixe menu. While it’s a bit pricey at £50 (plus upcharges on a few items), that £50 gets you a very generous full three quality courses. And between the 7 people in our party and a little bit of friendly sharing, we were able to experience a good portion of the menu, so I’m going to hit the highlights of the table.

First off was the white onion soup with poached hen’s egg, confit potato and pancetta. This was one of those nicely executed soups that reminds me of the benefits of a chinois with some good technique: a very smooth onion soup with nice little salty bits of potato, pancetta, and a bit of hen’s egg buried in it to chase around a bit. Quite pleasant overall.

Next up: ceps (mushrooms for us yanks) with pearl barley risotto, black garlic, roasted hazelnuts and parmesan. Another nice little appetizer, with a pleasantly woody mushrooms, a nice garlic barley rissota, and some hazelnuts to give it a bit more of a woody/nutty taste.

For the main course, most of the table went with the lamb dish: a loin of Welsh lamb with faggot (sausage), shallot purée, baby turnips and rosemary sauce. This was a perfectly cooked, tender piece of lamb, complements by a flavorful slice of sausage and some excellent turnips. I find lamb one of those meats that’s best cooked to a very narrow window, and here they hit it squarely.

Myself, however, I did the pork dish: Pork fillet with confit belly, boudin noir, butternut squash, Muscat grapes and Breton cider. I always really enjoy a nice done piece of pork belly, and here it was confited nicely, layered with the boudin noir, and then lightly crisped under the salamander to give it that nice crispy crust. Add in a nice tender piece of pork fillet, and the somewhat unusual side of crapes, and this was a perfect little pork dish.

But where the Glasshouse shined was dessert. First up was the Savarin with fig, rum and chantilly cream. I always find savarins a bit risky: there’s a certain balance to getting the dough itself crusty and yeasty enough, but having it soak up a reasonable amount of the sauce to soften it without making it soggy… but they did a good job here.

Next up was the pear panna cotta: a really nicely executed slab of panna cotta, firm but not chalky. Adding in some absolutely splendid gingered Japanese pears, and this was just about as perfect a panna cotta as I’ve ever had.

Finally, I did the chocolate dish: Dark chocolate mousse with macadamia nuts, passion fruit and banana sorbet. Again, a perfect execution: a mouse that was rich in chocolate notes without being greasy or cloying, with a pleasant banana sorbet served atop a nice cookie, dusted with nuts.

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