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Saturday, September 1, 2007


The day: 24th August 2007, Dinner.
The place:
1 Seething Lane, London, EC3N 4AX (020-7977 9500)
The venue: Addendum Restaurant
The food: Modern French/Fusion
The drinks: Short but very interesting, a few samples from each of several main producing wine areas in the world. Some options by the glass. City prices.

This time we decided to venture into the City of London, often land of soulless and forgettable corporate expense account dining venues. Why? Two reasons, really. First, we wished to take advantage of a tantalising offer of 50% discount on the food bill, found online (with the City half closed in August, they must be a little desperate... and so they get people like us instead of smartly dressed business people). But bad food is expensive even at 50% of the price. We were also intrigued by the statement on their webpage:

'We've broken with tradition to create a destination restaurant and bar where the accent is on fresh ingredients, imaginative presentation, an intimate atmosphere and, most revolutionary of all, fun'

Destination restaurant?
Fresh ingredients? Imaginative presentation? In the City? We had to check this out!

Addendum is part of the Apex Hotel, in a quiet back lane
just a few minutes walking distance from the Tower of London. Heading the kitchen, Chef Darren Thomas (not actually there on the night), who replaced Tom Ilic last year: both chefs apparently have a reputation for bold dishes. When you enter, you cross the Gastro Bar (where simple food and drinks are served), as well as a wall of live jazz music. The Restaurant dining room is spacious and elegant. The stark lines are softened and warmed by the carefully chosen lighting, wooden floors, and several mirrors. There are upholstered comfortable chairs and benches, and quite a few types of well-spaced tables, including some booths for those who like doing deals in the shade.

The menu is like the wine list: short but interesting. Three sections: starters, mains and desserts, with six-seven choices in each. Starters go for around £8 and include varied offerings from sea and land: Confit Salmon, Roasted Scallop and Poached Oyster, Roasted Sweetbreads, Pan-fried Quail, Chicken terrine, Stuffed Palmhearts, Smoked Eel.... A similar variety of materials and preparations is encountered in the mains section (around £17-18): Roasted John Dory, Stuffed Plaice and Pan-friedRed snapper among the fish, Braised Lamb, Poached Pork and Spatchcock Baby Chicken as meats, as well Polenta with cep puree and truffled eggs for vegetarians. All dishes also have interesting garnishes and accompaniments.

It is looking good...And even better when we sample the nibbles on the table:

They were not described to us, but we believe they were a beignet with saffron and a puff pastry with a peppery liver pate'. Very nice flavours in both. There was also a generous portion of pistacchio nuts, as you can see, and quality butter, both salted and unsalted.

The bread arrives (choice from a tray):

Let's say acceptable (it's a French place after all, so we are in a forgiving mood as far as bread is concerned...)

Next, an amusant-bouche:

Parma prosciutto and melon, with red parsley. This was undeniably a letdown, the melon bland and the dish served too cold. The presentation was nice, however, a consolation at least for Man.

Our choice of starter is:

Smoked eel, apple & horseradish jelly, beetroot (£ 8.25)

Salad of pan fried quail, blue cheese, blackberries, treacle dressing (£ 7.75)

The smoked eel dish was splendidly assembled and colourful. On the palate it was unexpectedly fresh and amusing (we were imagining a 'rustic' eel and beetroot preparation), with a wide array of textures and flavours from the abundant garnish (overall tanginess with some sweetness), which was quite a feat to put together coherently, the jelly especially yielding a very neat flavour. Admittedly not very substantial nor hearty, with two tiny pieces of (excellent and excellently treated) eel and rather too little chewing to do... but, in the context of the menu we had, it was a good choice.

The quail was finely cooked and good. A balanced dish, graced by minuscule melting cubes of cheese and served at the right temperature. Not stirring, but pleasant.

For mains we had:

- Braised neck of lamb, poached figs, yogurt & chickpeas (£17.50)

- Pan fried Red Snapper fillet, sauté potato, chorizo & red peppers (£17.75)

The lamb was very tasty, with a little accompanying reduction (too little perhaps, but comparing very very favourably with the fat 'thing' at Theo Randall's). The cooking of the meat was almost fine, except that the two sides of the neck meat were one fattier and the other leaner: while the former was perfectly soft, the latter one came off (just) a little 'brittle' and dry. The fig could have been skipped with no loss to the dish, it was not succulent at all, and rather tasteless. The spinach, on the contrary, were wonderful. The overall impression was of a sound, not perfect but very pleasant dish.

With the snapper, we reach maybe the most interesting culinary point of the evening. This is a 'high impact dish', necessarily controversial, so much so that Man and Woman will have to split (just for this paragraph, don't worry).
There was some agreement on three problems: 1) The fish was overcooked; 2) the peppers, which could have been a real 'bridge' between snapper and chorizo, were in such little quantity as to be almost insignificant; 3) The chorizo skin was inedible, and in this type of cuisine you expect only edible stuff in the plate. Beyond that, Woman was none too impressed overall, considering the chorizo too strong and the match with the fish unhappy, and found the fish overcooking almost unbearable. Man, on the contrary, was all excited because finally here was an Iberically 'gutsy' preparation, after the fine but slightly restrained and 'cold' previous offerings. To his taste the fish\chorizo\pepper match was audacious but thrilling indeed, only marred by the above mentioned flaws.

Before desserts, a Compote of Summer berries appears:

Very agreeable, the palate is duly sweetened and ready for desserts.

Our choices of dessert:

Strawberry cheesecake ice-cream & shortbread (£ 7.50)

- Plum tart finee, buttermilk ice-cream and plum sauce
(£ 7.50)

What struck us first in the strawberry cheesecake was the lack of cheesecake (however, there not being a comma between 'cheesecake' and 'ice-cream' on the menu, they were correct!). Apart from this, the ice cream was fabulous, the accompanying thinly sliced and dried strawberries (beside 'real' ones) a joy of concentrated flavour, and the shortbread very good, though a little excessive for Woman (it was OK for Man the glutton). Notice how cutely the dish is assembled.

The ice-cream accompanying the plum was equally superb, and so was the plum sauce. The tarte itself struck Man by its lighteness and flavour.
This relatively simple dessert impressed Man for the perfect match and balance of its components. Even the very stern Woman found it palatable :).

To finish, even if we have no coffee, the petit-four are generously offered:

We only nibbled at the macaroons in the back: remarkable.

We had a bottle of stunning
PETALOS DEL BIERZO, J. Palacios, Bierzo 2004 (£30.00), a blend of Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon, as we found out with some effort (more on this story later...). This, plus an 0.8 litre carafe of water at City price (£4.50), plus the food with 50% discount, plus 12.5% service, took our total to £80.21. At full price, we would have broken our £100 rule by hiting £113.34.

The service was perplexing. The Sommelier, reputedly very good, was not there (like the Chef, as we said - clearly a quiet period for them), and the front room manager who took the wine orders, while absolutely charming and cheerful and friendly, knew rather little about the wines on offer. No fault of hers, probably not her job, but is it too much to ask, in a place of this caliber and style, that when the Sommelier is away, there is somebody else in the room with some decent knowledge of the (short) wine list? (to her credit, she did her best to overcome her impasse, and she eventually succeeded in discovering what grapes were in our wine and even, by checking the back of the bottle as usual kept away from the customer, which part of Spain it came from). The other waiters were correct, French style, aloof, cheerless: they should practice in the front room teams of a couple of Italian restaurants we know...

Though not free from misses and troughs, we found that Chef Thomas' cuisine
is, at its best, capable of surprising with ideas and impressing with execution and presentation. The dishes are pleasing on the eye while backed by sound technique and kitchen organisation. The overall experience is rendered even more pleasant by the various complimentary delicacies that pamper the customer. We cannot fail to remark the contrast between this serious and rich gastronomic experience, and the one we had the previous week at Osteria dell'Arancio where, for similar dinner prices, while not eating badly, you will not come remotely near to the quality and complexity of cooking at Addendum, let alone the generous pampering.
To be fair, we are not sure we would come here regularly at full prices: but given the lunchtime offer (three courses for £27), we would recommend Addendum not only to business people who want to impress their clients with setting and food, but also to Italian and American tourists who, maybe tired and dejected by the lack of a 'tower' at the Tower of London, want to recover with a slightly original and sound gastronomic experience a few steps away in the City of London.


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