So this is a start of a new series of posts.
There are so many bloggers out there that do restaurant reviews, so what makes our’s any different?
Well due to the current economic climate there are a number of offers out there, where you can dine in Michelin starred establishments for a fraction of the normal cost. Ok you’re not going to get lashings of truffles, foie gras etc but you will get a taste of the chef’s style & ethos. Produce will still be carefully sourced, cooked & presented.
First up is Bohemia in St. Helier, Jersey. Having already featured in our ‘5Questions’ post, Shaun Rankin cooks accomplished food carefully, with nods to classics, ‘Fillet of Beef Rossini’ making an appearance on his a la carte, although carrying a hefty supplement.
Menu prices at Bohemia are still relatively cheap for the restaurant it aspires to be. The a la carte weighs in at a smudge under £50, whilst the lunch menu (which is the one we went for) is £21ish for 3 courses. Well that’s how it’s promoted. As with nearly all establishments at this level there are the little extra courses which have become de-rigour which you also receive, nuts & olives, canapés, pre-starter & pre-dessert with petit fours coming if you order coffee.
So to the meal itself, our table was booked for 1pm and we arrived 5 or so minutes early, mainly because through bitter experience we know how hard it is to park in St. Helier. Fortunately for us Bohemia is housed in The Club Hotel & Spa which has it’s own off road parking and as we went for lunch on an exceedingly sunny day everybody must have been at the beach as it was nearly empty. After being shown to the restaurant by a member of the reception team we decamped to the bar. The efficient and courteous front of house staff soon made us feel at ease with some nuts & green olives while we started to peruse the menus. The restaurant manager explained that although Bohemia doesn’t carry any half bottles it does do a very large selection of wines by the glass, from the selection on the bar list this ranges from a reasonable £4 Sauvignon Blanc from France to another French white at over £10 per glass. As our weapon of choice at the moment is Sauvignon Blanc we plumped for a glass of this. We like this type of approach from restaurateurs in doing wine by the glass on a larger scale. It gives the customers the chance to sample higher end wines without having to stump up a small fortune for the bottle. Clearly a practice Gordon Ramsay is keen to employ at his new eatery ‘Petrus’, where you can sample the famous Bordeaux wine in various vintages by the glass.
As we flicked between menus (the a la carte, the 2 choice vegetarian & the du jour lunch menu) a selection of canapés arrived.
From right to left: Pesto straw, taramasalta with cucumber, herb arrancini & crispy croutes for dipping.
As the object of the exercise is to eat for a reasonable price in high end restaurants, our mind was set on the du jour lunch menu which is a 3 choice, 3 course affair with potential for an additional cheese course priced at £12.
Prior to our starter arriving, there was the usual repertoire of bread & pre-starter. Now, normally these items don’t really set our world on fire, however at Bohemia it’s different. A bread basket arrived at our table with a selection of 5 or so breads; Milk, rosemary and a few other flavours. But a notable addition of chorizo, normally breads are a white dough with the addition of said flavour, not this one. We can say right now, it just oozed the spicy, paprika, pork taste of a quality chorizo, yet not a sight of lumps of the regal Spanish sausage.
The pre-starter, was quite apt for the weather outside. A thirst quenching Pimms jelly (with the garnish, we believe this is called dressed – might be wrong but who cares). This was topped with a light lemon espuma mimicking lemonade you’d normally add to Pimms.
We plumped for a starter of Duck liver parfait with quince & apple puree, duck confit beignets & warm toasted brioche.
Our picture really doesn’t do justice to this dish. The parfait was rich but not excessively so, the beignets were a pressing of duck confit cut into cubes and panéed with panko breadcrumbs, quince jelly was shaved expertly fine and heaped in 3 small piles. A generous smear of apple & quince purée was a gentle back drop tying the whole dish together. The individual toasted brioche that arrived with the dish was a triumph in baking, light yet so buttery.
Next up was Line caught cod, heritage tomatoes & sauce vierge.
This again was a truly accomplished piece of cooking, all the component parts knitted together, everything that was on the plate contributed to the dish in terms of taste & texture. The exchange of basil in the vierge with coriander, ordinarily would have been handled badly by a less talented chef. But Mr Rankin pulls the transition off seamlessly. The line caught Cod itself was cooked to perfection, beautifully fresh, white & translucent with cripsy skin. Accompanied by hand rolled penne, wafer thin shards of baby courgettes & the usual micro herbs. On a beautiful sunny day, one couldn’t have asked for any more, an exceptional dish.
After a timely wait, and hearing Mr Rankin pulling his staff into line (well, it all adds to the entertainment after you’ve got bored of people watching the 10 or so diners that are with you in the restaurant). Our pre – dessert arrived, mandarin jelly with yogurt.
At this point, we became slightly concerned at the slip in the technical ability. When chef’s make jellies with gelatine, it isn’t a fixed result. Jellies set with gelatine will get progressively hard as time goes by, and this was evident in the madarine jelly.
The jelly had set so hard it could be peeled off in one piece, and whilst the dairy produce in Jersey is unique to the island, it was a relative poor effort.
After this, it was the highly seasonal strawberries, olive oil shortbread & white chocolate sabayon. It appealed to us for the avant garde twist on the classic combinations. The strawberries were plump & juicy and the corresponding baby basil leaves tied in nicely with the basil oil and subsequently the olive oil shortbread. The shortbread biscuit, wasn’t really that short but had a somewhat cream, rounded, fruity texture & taste. Not immediately obvious, but a taste to be savoured, unfortunately the same couldn’t be said for the white chocolate sabayon. It was lacking in taste, texture & volume, with it being some what more akin to a glazed crème anglaise. The one major element which saved this dish from redemption was the strawberry sorbet. One word – Outstanding! Really one of the best sorbets we’ve tasted in an age. It absolutely typified what a great sorbet should be in texture, taste & colour, topped with a strawberry croquant tuile shard.
Now drawing to the end of our meal we ordered our macchiato coffee which came with petit fours, they came on a ‘tree’ and we chose 3 different types from the 6-7 that were on offer.
Again at this type of restaurant, we were expecting better. The madaleines were uninspiring and the truffles had been made using the hollow truffle shells, again average in flavour and the chocolates for the coating hadn’t really been tempered properly so lacked the crispness you’d probably expect.
Just for those of you that actually join our fan club on FaceBook, the picture is of Bohemia’s table ornaments
So the damage; 3 courses @ £21.50, small bottle of sparkling water (330ml) – £1.95, 2 glasses of respectable Sauvignon Blanc @ £4.00 each, 1 coffee & petit fours @ £3.30 and the dreaded service charge at 10% £3.50.
Total bill, £38.25
Yes, we could have done it slightly cheaper and come close to £30 or so, but it just seemed rude to be that tight.
In conclusion; Everything up to and including the main courses was easily a 2 rising star meal, but after that, the meal was technically lackluster & lacking inspiration. Is it worth a visit? Absolutely. It’s been one of our best meals so far this year, with a lovely balance between formality and casual, the professionalism of the staff without being stifling (to the point where the restaurant manager actually ask us who we wrote for, it’s hard to take pictures discreetly – even when it’s not busy). As a product Bohemia is a polished article where you actually get on a plate what Mr Rankin believes in.
We will be back, it’s that good.