Sunday, October 17, 2010

Roots Revisited

On my previous visit to Roots Restaurant in the Cradle of Humankind, I was slightly disappointed. My yeast allergy was not catered for accurately and my dishes compared to those of my companions, lacked some wow factor as components were left off instead of being replaced with allergy free versions.

I e-mailed my blog through to them and a few days later I received a call from Giles King, the general manager of Forum Homini, apologising that my experience was not of the impeccable standard that Roots has come to be known for.

Giles told me that they would like to be able to cater for everyone with an equally high standard and asked me to come back in a few weeks to see what they had come up with.

Giles set the kitchen staff to work straight away, giving them a tight schedule in order to challenge them, under the guidance of Head Chef Allistaire Lawrence. Giles tasked the pastry chef Samantha to come up with some dishes that were gluten, dairy, egg and yeast free that would provide me with the same experience as guests with no food allergies.

Last night I returned with two of my friends.

Complimentary bread was offered, with gluten free bread being given to me – I found this to be a thoughtful and personal touch.

An amuse-bouche of beetroot soup started us off – this packed a punch with the sweet and sour flavours working in unison – it certainly got the taste buds going.

The first course was an Aubergine, Roasted Pepper and Parma Ham Terrine paired with a tomato sorbet, basil emulsion and balsamic reduction.

The presentation was amazing as was the intricacy of the dish. The contrasting textures of the sorbet with the al dente roasted pepper and the crunchy biscuit streusel dotted around the plate and the zing from the basil emulsion was brilliant. The fact that the balsamic reduction had to be left off of mine, due to it containing yeast, didn’t bother me in the slighted as my eating experience was pleasurable.

Pan Fried Monkfish with braised lentils, confit tomatoes, red wine fumet and crispy potato was next. The monkfish was slightly tough, but the flavour from the lentils and tomatoes was intense and the crispy potato slivers on the top of the monkfish once again added another dimension. The red wine fume was replaced by sumptuous gravy, which complimented the dish well.

The third dish was Confit Pork Belly with caramelised apples, red cabbage and a ginger and honey sabayon. The sabayon was replaced with foam on mine. The pork belly was very tender and topped with what appeared to be pistachio crumbs or dukkah to resemble crackling, which was supremely clever. This dish was sweet, but the apple and cabbage added a needed tartness.

An unusual sweet pea sorbet was our palate cleanser. This gave our taste buds a small break before continuing on the journey.

Herb Gnocchi arrived next with roasted baby onion, chanterells, asparagus, sous vide fennel and truffle veloute. Instead of standard potato gnocchi, I received spinach gnocchi – the colour of which made a bold statement. The gnocchi was light, but had a slight “floury” taste. The crunch of the asparagus and fennel provided great texture and the roasted onion softened the dish. The sauce that replaced the truffle veloute was tasty.

The dish that stood out the most for me was the Herbed Beef Fillet with sweet potato fondant, broad beans, pickled carrots, foie gras and cinnamon jus.

The foie gras was pan seared, which gave it a lovely crust. At first, I was intimidated by the almost pudding like texture, but the taste was exceptional, especially when being paired with the beautifully cooked fillet. Outstanding.

A classic of Peaches and Cream rounded off an amazing taste adventure. My cream was replaced with dairy free vanilla ice cream, which was lovely and creamy and the vanilla stood out. The gluten free biscuit pieces adding the contrast to the dish were extremely light and delicious.

 Finally, complimentary rose water and almond Turkish delight and caramelised popcorn were the perfect finish to an amazing dinner.

This marathon of gourmet eating took about four and a half hours, but it was an enjoyment that made time fly. The lovely low lighting and warmth from the heaters provided the setting for an evening of pure escapism and magical wonder. The wait-staff were very knowledgeable and have perfected the art of making the diners feel unhurried and supremely well looked after.

I feel so privileged to have been able to partake in such an experience and to know that my blog has triggered off the need to cater for people with dietary requirements as complex as mine. Roots started implementing their amazing, revisited allergy free dishes shortly after receiving my blog. Just the fact that six other diners required dietary requirements on the same night as mine, goes to show that although the market is extremely niche it cannot be overlooked.

Thank you Giles, Allistaire and Samantha, you have certainly set the bar high – hopefully other restaurants will follow in your giant footsteps.

Apologies for the picture quality - it was at night and I used my phone

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