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Truffle Menu at Diciannove, Crown Plaza

Where
Diciannove at the Crowne Plaza Hotel

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What
An exclusive truffle menu created by chef Alessandro Bay to celebrate the Truffle Season, using white truffles from Umbria.

The Experience
I must admit, before this experience I’d never quite understood the fascination with truffles. Not only are they essentially weird looking little mushrooms, they suffer the indignity of being sniffed and snorted and hunted out by hairy pigs and trained ‘truffle dogs’ in the countryside of France and Italy before being shipped to our shores. However, I appear to be in the minority – they are the diamonds of haute cuisine, the second most expensive ingredients in the world (coming in just behind caviar).  Warring Umbrian farmers have even been known to murder each others prized pigs in an effort to win the truffle wars.

I’ve had hints of truffle in dishes before, and been known to use the now-disgraced truffle oil in cooking occasionally, but never really embraced them. Where better to give them the full appraisal than by trying a full truffle menu at Diciannove? Chef Alessandro has designed three truffle-heavy dishes for this exclusive menu to celebrate the Italian white truffle season, which runs until the end of November. With 5g of the stuff per dish, this was a serious undertaking, although most diners would choose only one option and explore the rest of the lovely Italian menu for the other courses. I didn’t think that would be giving them a fair go though – so three courses and 15g of fancy fungi it was.

The antipasti starter of pan fried egg with small radicchio salad, corn bread crostini with truffle butter, parmesan and white truffle shavings (uovo in padella con insalatina di radicchio rosso crostino, parmigiano e tartufo bianco) was essentially a very jazzy, very delicious version of scrambled eggs. The truffle butter made the eggs gloriously creamy, while the truffle flavour was intense, but not overpowering. All the scrambled eggs I’d ever enjoyed now seemed bland and meagre in comparison.

Next up was the pasta course – ravioli filled with ricotta cheese and parmesan with butter sage and white truffle (ravioli di ricotta al parmigiano e salvia con tartufo bianco). Pasta, cheese and truffle is a natural pairing, especially with the addition of sage, and the dish showcased these ingredients very well.

By this point, I was regretting wearing tight jeans and wished I’d gone for something with a more elasticated waist. The star of the show now arrives, a main course of pan fried cod with sweet white onions and butter, served with soft polenta and white truffle (merluzzo con polenta tartufata). The cod is delicate and delicious, melting on the tongue and happily complimented by the soft polenta. The truffle shavings are generous, and thus slightly overpower the flavour of the cod and polenta, so a more robust fish might have been a better choice.

Despite an enticing dessert menu including tiramisu, affogato and some very creamy gelato,  I give the sweet stuff a miss and finished with mint tea in an attempt to digest my three-course, fungi-friendly meal. The verdict? I think I may have finally been converted to truffles after all – although I probably won’t be eating them in such enormous quantities in future!

Cost

Antipasti: Uovo in padella con insalatina di radicchio rosso crostino - £24
Pasta: Raviolo di ricotta al parmigiano  - £33
Secondi: Merluzzo con polenta tartufata – £46

Address
Diciannove Crowne Plaza London
The City 19 New Bridge Street
London
EC4V 6DB

The Winter Cabin at York and Albany

Where
The  Winter Cabin, York and Albany

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What

Situated in the Courtyard of Gordon Ramsey’s York and Albany is the winter cabin, an alpine ski lodge experience serving festive cocktails and canapés. The picture of winter chic, located on a quiet corner of Regents Park, you would never guess this hidden gem was mere minutes from the mania of Camden tube.

The Experience
We took the Northern line from Bank to Camden, sweaty as always, I thought to myself. If this was a first date, I’m pretty sure I have been closer to most people on this tube than dates I have been on of late. I went with Hannah, a colleague who had started in my team the week before. She is amusing, likes food and at the end of a long working day is still good company, needless to say a great partner for dining.

We arrived and were politely shown through to the courtyard. The York and Albany is lovely, like a drawing room; it is cosy and welcoming without an air of pretention.

Upon arrival we were met by a knowledgeable and enthusiastic mixologist who advised that we must experience the cocktails in order; as condescending as this sounds, he was not at all. The cabin was full as we arrived, so we stood outside and quickly removed our coats. It is incredibly well heated, only adding to the rustic charm.

The first cocktail was called The Opportunist. It was bourbon based, served in a tall glass and smooth, creamy and well seasoned.

The second drink was a cherry based cocktail; delicious, warm, sweet and tasted like Christmas in a cup. Aptly named The Rumond, you could taste the Disaronno, Bitters and Bacardi, all equating to a sweet, sharp, cherry coloured cocktail.

As we drank, the waiters circulated venison burgers and game scotch eggs, both perfectly cooked in the York and Albany restaurant kitchen. The venison burger was deliciously gamey and still pink in the middle; it took all of my will power not to go back for thirds.

This was followed by what was described on the menu as a black pudding scotch egg. Although this was something that I can’t say seemed immediately appealing to me on paper, I was so pleasantly surprised. The crispy breadcrumbs, gamey black pudding and soft yolk made for a scrumptious mouthful, filling my mind with warm, cosy and Christmassy thoughts.

The introduction to our desert was the sweet smell of toasting marshmallows, and if we thought it couldn’t get any more festive we were wrong. The waiter appeared with a rich buttered Bacardi hot chocolate. Need I say more?

As we wandered out feeling content, happy and better friends, we realised it was obvious that this was a perfect option for a festive get-together treat with friends, family, colleagues or anyone who likes an evening of Christmas indulgence. It was also a reminder that we should be excited that the season of indulgence, good food and spending time with friends and families is upon us, rather than a fear of Oxford Street’s early decorations and the fact that you’re not that person who has started and finished their Christmas shopping.

The Cost

The log cabin is available for hire and can be booked for two-hour periods. It is available every day from 1pm – 10pm (apart from Christmas) and can be booked for double sessions. Prices below:

2 cocktails & paired snacks – £30 per person
3 cocktails & paired snacks - £40 per person