I was honoured to be invited to Montpelier Basement’s special New Year’s Eve supper, along with a handful of faithful followers and ‘basement’ regulars, most of who I’d met before so I was immediately at ease. I’d donned a posh frock, brought some wine from a wine merchant for a change and was tingling with anticipation and a healthy appetite.
The tasting menu kicked off with some yummy Keen’s cheddar palmiers, crisp and melt-in-the-mouth. A great start to the evening’s festivities.
Next came beetroot jelly with horseradish cream, a light and refreshing savoury jelly with the silky horseradish giving a bit of a kick. The dill finished it off beautifully.
The next course was creamy Jerusalem artichoke soup which was velvety and delicious. The knobbly tuber is one of my favourite winter vegetables and it’s texture lends itself well to soups and purees. It has quite a distinctive, almost truffle-like aroma which I love.
Then a bit of fun; ‘posh fish fingers with tartare sauce on yesterday’s news’ served on an article by Mark Taylor in the Bristol Evening Post from the day before about Bristol supper clubs, mostly referring to the success of Montpelier Basement. What a great touch and a great conversation piece! Very tasty too.
The treats kept coming and the Champagne kept flowing, to the delight of the diners.
Next came a Stichelton risotto with pear and walnuts. The piquancy of the cheese came through gently, punctuated by the sweet, sticky pear and the crunchy walnuts.
We then had a chance to have a little rest to prepare for the main event; the fillet of Exmoor venison with haggis and bashed ‘neeps (actually swede, I learnt recently from one of my ‘students’ that the Scots and Irish call swede turnip and vice versa). There followed an interesting conversation about the life and death processes of said animal, grim for some perhaps but fascinating for me and a great tribute to the beast we were all enjoying eating. The venison was expertly cooked, pink and succulent (not easy to do for 11 people at the same time). I was lost for a few moments in the bliss; the rest of the room melted away as I munched gratefully on the tender and flavourful meat. The haggis mashed together with the buttery swede was a perfect and appropriate accompaniment. Delicious, possibly the best thing I’ve eaten in a long time. I was a happy, slightly rosy-cheeked bunny.
2010 was swiftly drawing to a close so we took a break and went upstairs to ring in the new year with Jools, and Montpelier’s offering of fireworks.
But the night wasn’t quite over, we still had courses left to come.
Caramelised apple tart with thyme ice cream was next. The tart itself was lovely but the ice cream was divine, silky smooth and, well, creamy with a hint of aromatic thyme coming through, pairing beautifully with the apple. Genius.
We were all bowled over and well-sated, and then came the cheese!
Dan gave us a little introduction to the expertly chosen selection, see his blog Essex Eating (blogroll) for his latest post on cheese for more info.
The feast was rounded off with some hand-crafted chocolate truffles.
It was definitely a night to remember, Dan and Elly are excellent hosts and their food is up there with the best restaurants in Bristol. However, the experience is unique and unlike what you’d expect from a restaurant. The only way to find out for yourself is to go along. Their next (double) event is planned for the Friday 21st and Saturday 22nd January 2011. Book early to avoid disappointment, they fill up fast! Suggested donation is £25, but it’s well worth more than that. Follow them on Twitter @MontpelierBsmt or email firstname.lastname@example.org to book or to keep up to date.