I have just been to dinner at Michael's Kitchen, as an old friend from high school was visiting, and it came highly recommended from people in my lab. Now, I knew that the chef is meant to have a Michelin star, and that the food was meant to be good, but I wasn't expecting anything like what we got.
For a start, it was deserted. I really mean deserted. We were the only diners there for the first half hour, and even by the time we left, there were only two other tables of diners. I know that it's not been open long, but this surprised me. Somehow, I don't think it'll last.
The cuisine is "International and royal Thai", and there was certainly a thai element to most of the dishes we had. We ordered mains and starters, but were presented with what I believe is called an "amuse bouche" while we were waiting for the starter. If I remember correctly, this was described as a "Carrot and Ginger Cappucino", and was a tiny shot of hot frothy liquid somewhere between a drink and a soup. It was absolutely heavenly, with just the right balance of ginger. It was at this point that we realised that this was to be no ordinary meal.
The starters arrived a little later - I had ordered rice paper rolls with soft shell crab and sweet chilli dipping sauce. From the description, I was vaguely expecting spring rolls. Oh no. What I got was four beautifully presented rolls looking more like super-sized sushi maki rolls, except with rice noodles rather than rice, and rice paper rather than seaweed on the inside. I didn't identify all of the ingredients, but apart from the crab, there was definitely carrot (in tiny perfect juliennes), slices of mango, pickled ginger, lettuce, and what I think may have been radish. And it all went perfectly together. My companions had a beautifully deep, rich chestnut and truffle soup, and a "seafood udon cocktail", served in a tall glass so that the udon noodles could be seen floating through the clear broth.
The main courses were no less impressive. Both Hannah and I ordered the roast duck and lychee curry with lotus leaf rice. This turned out to be a very well flavoured thai red curry (made to order I assume as we were asked how spicy we would prefer it, much in the way that you are usually asked how well done you like your steak). The rice was the real star of the show though - it had been wrapped around some... stuff (we weren't quite sure what - Hannah thought meat, I thought maybe lotus bits, both of us identified mushroom), then wrapped in a lotus leaf and baked, making it sticky and incredibly tasty. I forget the exact title of Mo's dish - it had boar and sausage in and an orange sauce and was very meaty and gamey when I tasted it - very solid earthy food.
Under ordinary circumstances, we would have stopped here. We were really quite full. However, the quality of the food, and the imagination and presentation meant that we couldn't bear not to have dessert. Two baked cheesecakes and a warm chocolate cake were duly ordered. We were not disappointed. The cheesecakes were soft, moist and delicately ffavoured, with a tart berry sauce. The chocolate cake was hot, rich, and wallowing in quarter of an inch of thick gooey chocolate sauce. Both were topped with a small amount of homemade ice cream.
The price tag for a three course meal of this quality? £23 (not including drinks). As Hannah pointed out, you'd pay more than that for a three-course meal at Nando's. I can only assume that this state of affairs is temporary. With this quality of food, it is surely only a matter of time before this restaurant becomes the kind of place where you have to book at least a week in advance, if not more. Until then, I'll be taking every opportunity I can to sample the delights on offer.