Bouillabaisse of crayfish
A dose of culture along with food is an inspiring mix for me, and that’s what you can experience at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). The culture part comes in the form of various talks, exhibitions, film screenings, building tours and live music sessions that are held there on the last Tuesday of every month, and is simply called ‘Last Tuesdays’ with changing themes each month. November’s theme is ‘Colour Me Vertical’ and you can read more about what’s going on then here.
I took a friend with me to visit October’s ‘Last Tuesdays’ where we did an improvised tour of the building by ourselves. We didn’t have time to do the proper one because it would’ve overlapped with our table booking and food is always the priority. The building is very impressive I must say, Art Deco in style and suitably grand. We took a quick look at some of the exhibits on show then headed straight up to the rooftop, where we saw stunning views of London overlooking the BT Tower. It’s a fantastic building with lots of rooms to hold events in. They’ve previously held fashion shows and were the host of a large screening lounge for the ‘London 2012 Olympics’.
The dining area is on the first floor in the luxurious Florence Hall – it’s a very grand and elegant setting. The Head Chef is Leon Secretan who, along with RIBA, are advocates of using seasonal goods from reputable suppliers within the UK. They also use Fairtrade, organic and environmentally friendly products wherever possible. So with those honorable credentials in place I was seriously looking forward to trying the food.
To start, I had the bouillabaisse of crayfish. It was more like a consommé than a bouillabaisse, but was wondrously light with a good depth of fruity tomato flavour running through it that complimented the confit salmon, lobster and scallops. There were little drops of black caviar providing a sharp touch to balance the overall dish and a fondant potato adding texture. I must admit that the dish wasn’t quite what I was expecting, but it was very good all the same and beautifully presented. My friend went for the black truffle potatoes, which again looked great – he was very pleased with his choice.
My main was an absolutely winner of a dish. I opted for the scallops, octopus, Borlotti beans and it was simply stunning. There was a lot going on, but it worked, boy did it work. The octopus was meltingly tender and the fresh, sweet, scallops were cooked right through just the way I like. The potato fondant reappeared which I felt didn’t need to be there as the Borlotti beans provided enough carbs to carry the dish, but meh – it was good.
Friend chose the smoked Gressingham duck breast, braised beef and confit croquette – again lots going on, but again very happy with his dish. To finish I opted for the chestnut panna cotta, toffee apple, poached pear and coconut tuile. Boom! And friend the English cheeseboard.
The chefs at RIBA certainly know what they’re doing and they do it extremely well. It was a top-notch meal that suitably fitted its grand, sophisticated surrounding.
The RIBA Restaurant at: 66 Portland Place, London W1B 1AD, is open to RIBA members or members of the public. A set menu, not including drinks is:
two courses for £19.50, three courses for £23.50 or items from the grill at between £17.50-£18.50 with sides at £3.25.
Food I Fancy dined as the guests of RIBA. Many thanks for the invite.