Mandarin Oriental Hotel,
London, SW1X 7LA
Tel: 020 7201 3723
Food type: Modern Eclectic
Food rating: 6/10
Nearest tube: Knightsbridge
This is my second visit to Foliage. I was impressed with my lunch here in June and recommended it for B’s birthday. The dining room during this visit was more packed compared to my last visit (at my previous visit, Jane Seymour was sat on the next table and annoyingly harping on about her very expensive Michael Kors dress).
Service was slow to begin with – it took them a good 10 minutes before we were presented with the menus. The lunch menu is still 4 course for £29 at a time where restaurants are raising the prices of their menus in the face of the credit crunch. The menu has sensibly changed with the season while maintaining some of the classics which were present during my last visit.
Bread selection was, as before, a choice of Baguette, Brown roll, Walnut and Sourdough served with both salted and unsalted butter. Of these, the best was the Baguette which was nice and crunchy although could have done with slightly more salt. The walnut and sourdough were as I remember them – chewy and slightly rubbery. (4/10 overall, 5/10 for baguette)
An amuse bouche of Cauliflower Foam and Cauliflower Bhaji featured a nice creamy soup filled with a nice intense flavour of the cauliflower. The bhaji was however oversalted and a greasy which was an unfortunate oversight from a kitchen with such high standards. (4/10)
My starter of Duck Egg/ Smoked Bacon/ Mushrooms/ Red Wine consisted of a singular poached duck egg accompanied by smoked Alsace bacon and pearl onions cooked down in red wine. This was also garnished with 2 pieces of croutons. This dish was a good idea but was marred by timing issues – the duck egg was poached a fraction too long and as such was barely runny. As a whole, the dish itself also was slightly unbalanced with the saltiness of the bacon overwhelming much of my palate and most of the lonely duck egg. (3/10)
J’s Langoustine/ Courgette/ Fennel/ Lemon Curd was a better dish with a courgette flower filled with langoustine mousse which was gently poached.
Foie Gras/ Smoked Eel/ Apple/ Hazelnuts
D went for the Foie Gras/ Smoked Eel/ Apple/ Hazelnuts. Birthday boy B went for the Tuna/ Tobiko/ Wasabi/ Pickled Oyster which I had during my last visit. Being a fan of japanese food, B found this dish very enjoyable.
For seconds, B and I settled on a plate of Sole/ Parsley/ Brown Butter/ Capers. This was a fillet of lemon sole garnished with some salty capers, some unadvertised trompette mushrooms and petit fondant potatoes. Despite the many combination of flavours on the plate, I found this dish to be a joy to eat and particularly with the hollandaise. My only complaint is that the fish was cooked a fraction too long and was slightly flaky. (6/10)
Sweetbreads/ Truffle Sauce/ Ceps/ Salted Peanuts
J went for the Sweetbreads/ Truffle Sauce/ Ceps/ Salted Peanuts. This was slightly modified from the incarnation I enjoyed during my last visit. The morels have been replaced by the in season ceps but all other aspects of the dish including the presentation remained the same.
John Dory/ Tomato/ Saffron/ Tempura
D had the John Dory/ Tomato/ Saffron/ Tempura which J also had for her mains.
My mains (and also D’s) was the very seasonal Grouse/ Peach and Endive Tatin/ Cep Puree/ Thyme. The dish originally calls for duck instead of grouse. However we were informed after placing our orders that the restaurant’s supply of duck was deemed not good enough and had to be sent back. Instead we were offered grouse as a substitute with all the same garnishes. The dish works well with grouse perhaps better than duck. The slight bitterness of the grouse was a capable foil to the sweetness of the peach and carrots. The grouse itself was perfectly cooked. (7/10)
B’s main was the Beef/ Tongue and Cheek/ Salsify/ Horseradish. This consisted of braised beef cheeks and a cannelloni of ox tongue.
B also enjoyed an extra mains of Chicken/ Broccoli Puree/ Leeks/ Gewurztraminer.
A pre-dessert of Grapefruit/ Cashew/ Ginger consisted of a grapefruit sorbet sitting atop some chopped cashews and topped off with a ginger foam. This was also garnished with a small slice of grapefruit. As a pre-dessert, this did the job with a good balance of sweetness to offset the bitterness and acidity of the grapefruit. Still this is hardly an original idea and unable to avoid the use of a tart fruit. (5/10)
We shared a plate of cheese which came garnished with various condiments including Macadamia Nut Puree, Celery, Pickled Carrots, Fig Chutney and Quince Jelly. The cheese board consisted of a selection of British and French cheeses which were subsequently presented on a beautiful black slate. This was accompanied by some raisin bread and sesame crackers. The cheese themselves were in varying condition, with the Epoisse (served in a little glass) to be slightly too runny even for my liking. (5/10)
My dessert (and B’s) of Calvados Souffle/ Green Apple Iced Parfait/ Sea Salt Caramel featured a miniature souffle served in a shot glass alongside a parfait sculpted to resounding likeness of an apple. Serving the souffle in a shot glass was a prety interesting idea and the souffle itself was nice and airy with only the slightest hint of calvados. The ice parfait had the intensity of an autumnal apple with perfectly balanced sweetness. (7/10)
J had some funky Vanilla Panna Cotta / Strawberry Sorbet / Buttermilk Mousse / Elderflower – the milk jelly served in a cocktail glass topped with the strawberry sorbet and elderflower foam.
D had the Milk Chocolate/ Thyme Anglaise / Olive Oil Ice Cream which is similar to when I last visited.
We finished off lunch with some petit fours consisting of Chocolate and Honey & Iced Sugar Madeleines. The honey and ice sugar madeleines were enjoyable being nice and light although a touch too sweet. (7/10) The chocolate madeleines, were, I felt too heavy with the addition of cocoa. (5/10)
The cooking here is still at the same level when I visited previously although there are some issues with timing – for example the aforementioned poached egg and also B’s wasabi ice cream which was half melted. Admittedly this could have been a problem with the waiting staff as service was slow and lacking enthusiasm. For example, they did not seem interested in explaining what each dish was and had to be prompted to do so. It was as if they were just going through the motions at the end of a long lunch service (admittedly we chose to dine at 2pm). This is slightly surprising as the waiting staff are the same as when I visited previously. They also forgot to take down the order of B’s extra course but at least apologetic about it and offered us a pre-dessert while they cooked up the missing dish. Of course, it would have been best if they didn’t make that mistake in the first place. Plus having a pre-dessert before another meat course is just weird. Overall a less than spectacular second visit here.