A restaurant dish should never be considered great simply because it’s popular. You want your waiter to talk you through where the ingredients are from, how they’ve been prepared that day and what’s seasonally appropriate. Instead, when we ask our waitress at Blancmange whether we should order the goat’s cheese and cavolo nero pie or the slow roasted Berkshire pork, the answer we receive is “Well, the pie is our most popular dish”. So what?
There’s plenty on the Blancmange menu that sounds and looks wrong on paper. But on the plate, it’s a different story. Take the tea smoked salmon with black pudding – to read it, it sounds like pure fiddlesticks but the sweet, meltiness of the black pudding and the smoky fish has a really nice quality to it and paired with an apple, radish and Jerusalem artichoke salad, its crisp, peppery sweetness rounds out well.
The idea of polenta-dusted deep fried calamari and lamb is such a pervy take on surf ‘n’ turf, it’s worth ordering. And it works. The crunch of the crisp-fried squid with that tender young lamb is a treat for texture nerds and the flavours compliment each other well, popping with a scatter of confitted cherry tomatoes. The lamb, though, leaves a little to be desired. As much as the flesh is delicious on the rarer side of medium rare, it’s not great when it’s still bleating which is what we find with the inner slices.
Also, order some side dishes. They’ll say you don’t need them but you do. There’s no carb with the lamb (which is fine if you’re an Atkins devotee), the pie comes with a very simple green salad and though there’s plenty of food, you might find yourself craving a side of rosemary potatoes. The snow peas with pancetta and garlic is also a nice offering and a damn sight more interesting than the usual mash and beans but if the peas had been tossed through with a little pork fat they would’ve been a bit more exciting.
Peach bombe Alaska looks great when it comes out. The meringue is licked and tanned with lips of ripe peach scattered about the plate. But the meringue is so thick, it takes two big fat mouthfuls of sugary eggwhite before you burrow your way into the peach ice cream and sponge. Still, the ice cream’s well made and the only problem with the meringue is that there’s too much of it.
This is a great little local restaurant and, at $48 for three courses, any hiccups with the food can be quickly forgiven, making Blancmange somewhere you could probably afford more than once in a blue moon.