I am not a huge fan of going out for Valentines, with it often seeming to be an excuse (for some places, but certainly not all) to roll out a set menu that offers limited value (that is being charitable) at a price that bares little resemblance to that the week before. There is also the oft vomit inducing display of young love to contend with (yes I concede I am a miserable git).
I do get, however, that it is the first real chance for hospitality to generate substantial income after the post Christmas hibernation and why it is important to the industry. This year, more than ever, the ability to use Valentines to generate much needed income was imperative for the sector.
I had a pretty full proof excuse for staying in, with us all caged up at the moment, without being accused of being a tight git (usually a fair charge – there is a git related theme developing here I feel) due to the current “endless” lockdown.
Will restaurants etc. be open by Easter? Seems not, if the latest missive from Drakeford is anything to go by.
Have to say, it totally mystifies me that you will be able to get a tattoo, a facial and a massage from the 12th March, but there is no date yet for pubs and restaurants etc.to re – open.
I am lucky in terms of my job, being able to easily work from home on a decent salary, but I am really starting to despair at our continuing incarceration. What it must be like for those without a steady wage or a modicum of job security God only knows!
The plight of those in the sector was very much brought home to me by the announcement of the closure of Bar 44 in Cowbridge 😥. If that ain’t the canary in the coal mine keeling over, I really don’t know what is! I really fear there will be an awful lot more announcements of that ilk to come.
Anyhow I digress (or is that depress), so back on message.
With the excuse of not going out in the bag, it was a case of do I do the hard yards cooking wise (and risk fxcking it up) or do I outsource it (well most of it), with a heat at home kit/makeaway.
Since lockdown the availability of really good heat at home/ makeaways meals, with minimal effort, from top notch restaurants/ chefs has exploded.
On looking at options, I could have remortgaged the house to get some of the Michelin star’s efforts or plumped for closer to home with the likes of Heaney’s, Thomas by Tom Simmons, Mercado 44 and Rocket & Rye to name but a few.
After a bit of deliberation as to what to have on the weekend in question, I went with the three course offering from Grady Atkins at Chez Vous. I absolutely love this man’s cooking, which has never failed to please in the past. This is a guy who DM’s me on a Friday and say “Made too much duck liver pate and I am in your neck of the woods tomorrow – do you want some?” and then (refusing to accept payment) leaves the following on my door step.
I mean, what’s not to love about that!
The menu (for the weekend of the 13/14th February) looked a nice mix of interesting flavour combinations (I would expect nothing less from Mr. Atkins)
and an order (£30 a head plus a £2.50 delivery charge) was duly put in.
Not billed as a “Valentines” meal and priced similarly to any other week, this was just up my street. Maximum brownie points, without maxing out the wallet (tight git mode fully engaged)! As it happened we had it on the 13th rather than the 14th so didn’t treat it as a Valentines meal.
All nicely packaged up,
with easy to follow instructionsthat even I would stuggle to cock up.
First up was a rather intriguing combo of pork belly and lychees.
The blast in the oven crisped up the pork belly, which had reached maximum tenderness through the pre delivery slow cooking, nicely.
Lovely rich flavour to this which was complimented by a really moreish sauce/ glaze. Couldn’t tell you what was in that sauce, but it was addictively good. The excellent milk bread operates as a perfect vehicle to mop the sauce up.
The vinegar marinated lychees, whilst looking alarmingly like freshly plucked out eyeballs, were a stroke of genius bringing that sweet and sour element that works so well with pork.
Next up was a fish course, which required a bit more concentration (never a forte of mine when cooking) with an exactly 90 second off the heat emersion in boiling water.
The result was a beautifully cooked piece of fish, just past translucent and with a lovely flake to it.
I was slightly worried that the intense lemon puree and verdant herb oil, with the pickled cucumber, would overpower the delicate flavour of the sole. This proved to be unwarranted as they operated to compliment the flavour of the fish, with the intense lemon balanced by the freshness of the herb oil and the pickled cucumber.
The Jerusalem articokes acted as the starch and added, I think, a more robust flavour profile than the humble spud would have done, with a nice nuttiness. They did, however, seem to live up to their reputation later in the evening.
The pudding was another triumph with a seeming cacophony of flavours achieving a harmonious balance – a very jazzy dessert.Rich chocolate was cut by sharp blood orange and ever so slightly sour coconut infused yoghurt.The instruction to sprinkle the cocoa and hazelnut crumb on each spoonful brough a nice nutty flavour and a touch of bitterness to proceeding, as well as a welcome textural contrast. Very clever stuff.
Good food deserves good booze, but a pork starter and then a fish main led to a bit of a dilemma. I could have deployed the Coravin to get two different wines, but decided a riesling would cover the necessary bases for the starter and main course.This Alsace number from the Bottleshop in Pontcanna had nice orchard fruit aromas (pear and apple – which have a natural affinity with pork) as well as some floral notes. On the palate there was fresh cut green apple and a nice limey finish which worked very well with both the pork (the apple) and the sole (the citrus).
With the dessert, a very good match for chocolate is pedro ximenez.
On the palate there was molasses, fig and coffee. Lovely decadent stuff and a real treat with the dessert here.
Grady Atkins nails it yet again, with three fabulous courses where all the hard yards are already done for the dinner. Perfect for Valentines weekend or indeed any other weekend and very fairly priced for the quality and quantity of what you get.
March’s menu looks a doozy!I am very much looking forward to his next bricks and mortar project, which he assures me will be (if all goes to plan) within walking distance of my gaff. That makes me a very happy chappy indeed.
Orders are via the online shop at https://www.chezvousgrady.co.uk/