Thursday, August 15, 2013

Oui Madame, 8th August

After my exhilarating white water Duck Tour adventure, I was whisked off to Dalston for a night out there followed by a stay in the Avo boutique hotel. I won't go into too much detail on the hotel as it wasn't on the List, but it was very cute, a fantastic location and I quite liked the breakfast, though the guy on reception could do with improving his warmth and people skills.

Anyway so next on the agenda was dinner at Oui Madame! This was such a French-feeling restaurant - superfriendly and homely. It had two sections to the restaurant - we were at the front where it opens out onto the street giving the inside a bit of a cafe/bistro feel. The back half felt more like a 'proper' restaurant. 

The back side
So we got there and were given a very friendly welcome, helped by the fact I was beaming myself. We'd been running a little late and had asked if we could push the reservation back by half an hour, which they accommodated with no problem at all. I do not know for certain but I would guess that the restaurant is run by the man and woman, presumably husband and wife who were the front of house staff. The normal menu is a small plates menu, but you can also have a set menu of three courses for £23. There are no choices for the starter or dessert but you have a choice of three mains (one of which is vegetarian). This menu I also presume changes fairly frequently and was written up on a chalk board, which the host carried to each table to display. 

It felt very much like you were at his house and he was treating you to dinner as he bustled around, showing off the specials board, greeting diners, and swigging from the glass of wine he kept close to hand on the counter. I fell in love with the place even without trying any of the food.

Happily, the food was also a joy to eat. It's not fine dining - it wouldn't win Michelin stars - but it was good, homemade food, just the sort of thing you'd want from a neighbourhood restaurant. I keep wanting to say the cuisine was French, but actually there was quite an Italian feel to the menu. The starter was a gazpacho and the dessert was salted caramel pannacotta. 

We had one each of the main meat dishes - pork loin for Stephen and beef for me. 

The tomato gazpacho came with sardine rillete on toast, which turned out to be far too fishy for me, but appreciated for that very reason by Stephen so he had mine, leaving me with the toast it was served on. This had been sprinkled with some sort of seed (I think pumpkin or linseed), giving it an added nutty dimension. The gazpacho was beautifully fresh-tasting, dotted with basil and (perhaps) further tomato oil which dispersed into the soup. It had a deep garlic flavour and was like eating liquid bruschetta. I loved it.

Pretty gazpacho!
I had mainly chosen the beef over the pork because it came with potato dauphinoise. It was also accompanied by a blue cheese sauce, and what turned out to be a basil sauce as well. This basil sauce seemed to be a signature of their plates as it appeared on Stephen's pork dish too. Both of us agreed that it was delicious but we couldn't quite work out its relationship to the other food on the plate. Stephen's pork came with roasted tomatoes, and unsurprisingly the basil went a treat with those, but didn't really pair with the pork so much. I thought it complemented my beef quite well but clashed with the very cheesy and creamy blue cheese sauce and potatoes. Each plate was almost like two dishes in one.

Pork loin
My steak was cooked very well (by that I mean medium rare) and the potato dauphinoise were creamy without being too stodgy, with a crispy potato layer on top. Stephen had forgotten his pork was loin rather than shoulder and wsa about to moan at me that it was a little dry in parts before remembering that was a likely characteristics of this cut. I must admit when our plates were first set down I had a pang of food envy and flirted with preferring his dish over mine after I'd had a bite of the edge of his loin - caramelized and crunchy round the edges. But I think my beef was probably more consistently good.

Our dessert reminded us a bit of the dessert we'd had at Flat Iron. Stephen fulfilled the role of food critic here by trying each element and pronouncing that individually they were all delicious and… together they were still delicious! We had a blackberry sorbet with the chantilly and pannacotta, which tasted great but sadly was a bit too authentic for me. Horrible seeds kept getting in my teeth so I gave mine to Stephen. (Only the sorbet, I ate the other stuff!)

We had planned to get a cheese course as well but I was feeling pretty comfortably full by then and didn't want to push it. I knew we were going for cocktails after and I didn't want to feel bloated and destroy my further enjoyment of cocktails.

We foolishly started perusing the food as soon as we sat down instead of the drinks so when our drinks order was taken, I ordered in a bit of a rush, picking the biodynamic wine just because I hadn’t had one before. Stephen admonished me, saying I should have remembered they have a reputation for being awful, but our hostess (naturally) said it was a fine choice and that you can drink bottles of the stuff without getting a hangover. We only had the one bottle to share, but it was very drinkable, nice and dry, and I didn’t have a headache at all the next day so maybe it can take some of the credit for that.

We didn’t have any cocktails because a) they were all quite absinthe-based and b) we were having cocktails later, but I did love that one was called the Oui Madame!, and one was called the Non Monsieur!.

And weirdly, the bathroom deserves a special mention for being somewhat out-of-the-ordinary. A huge feather duster hung from the ceiling as the light switch, it was illuminated by a soft red glow and on the whole felt a bit like walking into a sex dungeon. I tried to take a picture but it doesn’t do it justice.

Apparently downstairs they have exhibitions and whatnot (which is how I first heard of the place). It’s a little far up Kingsland Road, pretty much straddling Dalston and Stoke Newington but I would say it is well worth the extra walk.

In short I say, Oui Madame? A thousand times oui!

Oui Madame on Urbanspoon

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