When Catherine informed me that Restaurant 23 was offering their classic tasting menu for only £30 a head on selected midweek evenings, I put all other plans on hold. When I saw the menu, I cleared my schedule completely, and began salivating.
Truffles were mentioned. Truffles have grown on me. Beginning with an early stage of ignorance, followed by an era of indifference, succeeded by a moment of understanding, until three or four years ago they became an addiction.
Crab was on offer. Any of you who read my review of La Perla will know that I'm not averse to a spot of crab.
Add Lamb to that equation, and throw in one of my favourite fruits - apricots - and things were looking decidedly promising.
"I suppose we could go on Tuesday." I conceded, casually. Restaurant 23 occupies a fantastic building, in Leamington. The sort you wish was your house. It's all high ceilings and big French windows, large double doors and Regency fireplaces. You get the idea - Such an investment would be wasted on an inferior kitchen.
The '6 Course Tasting menu' is in fact 4 courses with an amuse bouche and palate freshener, but coffee and petits fours are thrown in, which is good value. The amuse bouche was light and fresh (watercress panna cotta with ham hock beignets) but this was a late reservation, on a work night, so my bouche was already prepared for weightier offerings.
The Hay Smoked Quail was beautifully paired with truffled goat's curd and a 'pastilla' of brown meat to add texture.
The sweet crab meat was well complemented by a subtle curry oil and fresh fruit, whilst the crisp Riesling, suggested in the wine flight (£55 each, or available by the glass) was an ideal match.
The lamb loin, and tender shoulder meat were both cooked excellently and precisely and served with a tasty jus.
The food at Restaurant 23 is good. At times it is excellent. The Smoked Quail stands out particularly. However, the dessert - Pistachio sponge with poached apricots and elderflower - was a slight anti-climax. A nice combination of flavours to be sure, but not complex enough for a 'fine-dining' restaurant with pretensions of michelin stardom, or exciting enough for a meal which probably deserved to end with some fanfare.
On the other hand, it was paired with a lovely Sauternes.
And did I mention that coffee and petits fours are thrown in?
Restaurant 23, 34 Hamilton Terrace, Leamington Spa
N.B. We booked and paid for dinner at Restaurant 23 ourselves, and all opinions are our own.