Artisan’s Seasonal Showcase takes place on the first Wednesday of every month, this time it’s a vegetarian menu celebrating local growers and seasonal produce. I’ve never done a tasting menu before, and as we head towards the restaurant I joke with my friend about tiny portions and stopping for chips on the way home. She (a more seasoned restaurant goer) looks at me sideways and says, ‘I wouldn’t worry about that.’
First up are the canapes – this isn’t really the first course you understand, just a little extra in case the next six courses aren’t enough. The theme here seems to be green – pea purée with a parmesan crisp, a refreshing cucumber mousse on a savoury shortbread, and what my friend describes as a ‘delicious, cheesy, garlicky roll.’ This is accompanied by a cocktail of apple, lemon and soda. Good start.
Throughout the meal the dishes arrive in quick succession, and next up is a dainty cup of wild garlic soup. The green theme is still going strong here – but it tastes beautiful and isn’t overpoweringly garlicky. There’s an option to have an accompanying wine with each course, but as we’re both driving we’ve opted to just have one, and the soup comes with by a cold glass of Italian Rose Spumante Brut. It complements the soup perfectly, and sees us through the next few courses too.
Our second course is a north country garden salad, courtesy of Ken and Tracy Holland. This time there are flecks of pink among the green – spicy radishes and delicate pink petals. As we eat, we discuss which of the art works on display we would take home with us. I vote for a unusual print of dancing shadows on the wall next to us, my friend prefers the sculptures which line the glass partition between the restaurant and the gallery itself.
Our next dish – slow cooked duck egg on toasted brioche with sprouting broccoli and hollandaise sauce – is the star of an already brilliant show. The broccoli is crisp, the hollandaise suitably creamy and the egg is so perfectly cooked that even the white spreads like butter.
So far we’ve attacked this meal with vigour, but halfway through our clamped beetroot and onion tart with foraged leeks and truffled whipped goats curd, I start to flag. I’m unable to finish the dish, and we decide that in the interests of our health we better have a breather before the next course, which is rhubarb fool. It’s served in a shot glass, and when it arrives, we down it. It’s bitter and sweet and has a deliciously fizzy foamy layer on top. It’s the perfect refresher and sets us up for the final dish – heritage carrot burnt cream, walnut brittle ice cream and white chocolate mousse.
Alas, we are finally defeated. It’s all fabulous (and if you gave it to me now it would be gone in a minute) but having eaten so much already, we just can’t go on. We taste a little of everything and leave regretting that we couldn’t see out the final round. It turns out my friend was right, and we don’t stop for chips on the way home.