If visiting a fine dining restaurant is a little daunting, or you want to make sure that you will enjoy the experience before splashing out, then I’d recommend trying the lunch menu first.
Nearly all restaurants offer a fixed price lunch menu, with fewer choices than the evening a la carte menu, to get to grips with a chef’s style of cooking.
This was the view of my mum, who hadn’t eaten at Restaurant 23 before, when she joined me for lunch there on Saturday 25 March.
While we were reviewing the menu, a platter of freshly made bread with plain and Marmite butter arrived. This is the first indication that Head Chef Curtis likes to play with favours.
With three choices of starters, mains and desserts it was quick and easy to choose what we wanted to eat. From Rabbit (with peanut, gherkin and carrot, Mushroom (with pasta, balsamic and parmesan) and Salmon (with avocado, dill, buttermilk) I went for the veggie option.
The sweet beads of Balsamic vinegar were almost like berries, cutting through the earthy mushrooms. Then followed an amuse bouche of sweet tomatoes and knobs of mozerrella, which Maitre D Eduardo Nesto poured water into our bowls to make a refreshing, clear broth and imaginative change from sorbet as a palette cleanser.
For mains our options were Chicken (with swede, maple, and kiev) Pollock (with baby gem loveage seaweed) and Egg Yolk (with celeriac, burnt onion and watercress).
Traditional roasted chicken melted in the mouth, the Kiev ball was deep fried to crisp perfection and the sweet maple syrup and swede alongside creamy mash were a winning combination as far as my mum was concerned.
Eduardo was back to pour jus over mum’s chicken and a (I think) a lemon sauce over my pollock which made the loveage and seaweed crackle into life.
Always leaving room for dessert, Mum was straight onto the Raspberry meringue, sorbet and panna cotta without giving the Egg custard (with nutmeg and Yuzu) or Chocolate (with biscuit, clementine and fennel) a second look.
Facing competition from numerous branded chains as well as independent venues, Restaurant 23 is offering an exceptionally good value two course lunch for £19.95 or three courses for £24.95. On Sundays the prices are higher for lunch, at £37 for two courses and £45 for three courses.
I must make a special mention for Eduardo, who deserves a medal for the tact, diplomacy and charm in dealing with a non-eating toddler and a couple who wanted to order from the (unavailable) evening tasting menu for lunch. What a star!
I’d sum Restaurant 23 up as elegant without being intimidating and creative but not scary cooking making it a must visit eaterie.
Find out more about Head Chef Curtis Stewart here in the latest Meet the Chef article.