Friday, 28 March 2014

20 Gun Salute for Café 21

A tardy review on account of the migraine that's plagued me all week. It would be easy just to skip it but I feel it has to be written; I'm not easily pleased and as my Valentine's night out was distinctly under-whelming on the food front, when we try again a month later, I'm more than pleasantly surprised.

Feeling somewhat apprehensive as I made the online booking, after all, this was another foodie venue awarded 5 stars by the region's Secret Diner and we all know what I thought of the last place I went to based on his review, but buoyed by positive comments from friends, I went ahead, pleased that my first choice of time was available, and making a few extra requests about the table. The confirmation email arrived, followed up with a telephone call the day before to confirm arrangements. So far, so good.

Friday night arrives, my friend picks me up and we head off into town. Fall Out Boy are playing the Arena so it's busy and traffic's slow but we make it to the Quayside unscathed and settle on a quick drink in the Slug - and a quick one it is too. The place is packed and noisy, so drinks downed we pop around the corner to the Broad Chare for another more leisurely drink before making our way to destination food.

I'm hungry, really hungry now, and hoping I'm not in for artfully arranged vegetable peelings atop a sliver of meat passing itself off as haute cuisine. As we're ushered to our table I relax, noting that requests have been fulfilled and settle down to peruse the menu. What a menu. Both myself and my dining companion chose the Scallops to start. If I hadn't, I'd probably have plumped for the Crab Lasagne, but I do love a good scallop and boy were these good. Served in one half of a shell, the 3 enormous scallops sat, drizzled with plenty of chilli and garlic. I love the fact that they came with their coral attached; so many places discard this but it's tender and bursting with flavour, who cares that it might affect the symmetry of the plate?

Empty plates whisked away by attentive but never intrusive staff, we moved on. My companion decided on the Braised Shoulder of Beef, which was so tender it truly was melt-in-the-mouth, whilst I had the Grilled Calves Liver. Sniffed at by some no doubt for being offal, this much maligned dish was 'offally' good, soft and delicate and served pink. A million miles from the tough, chewy liver I remember from childhood (Nana saying 'it's good for you')trying to wash it down with as much gravy as possible. None of that needed here. A couple of sides of spinach, beans and fries and it was a most delectable meal.

My companion chose his dessert carefully - Doughnuts, to ensure he'd have them to himself; I, feeling rather full, opted for sorbet, melon and raspberry - the fruitiest I've ever tasted. A couple of coffees later, we leave, very happy customers.

Things about the restaurant: the staff are great, as I said before, attentive but not intrusive, polite and friendly, knowledgeable about their dishes. Other establishments should take note.
Toilets - really good, clean, plentiful, with the best disposable hand towels I've seen outside the States.

And now I'm going to complain, the tiniest of complaints - my chair was hard and uncomfortable. 20/21