Best Restaurant in the World?

DonQui is rather excited to be going for dinner at the Black Swan in Oldstead, Yorkshire.

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The Black Swan at Oldstead

This restaurant, in the middle of nowhere on the edge of the Yorkshire Moors, was crowned the Best Restaurant in the World in TripAdvisor’s Travellers’ Choice Restaurants awards in October 2017. It has one Michelin star which Michelin defines as ‘worth a visit’. As a Christmas present from Duchess, DonQui was giving it the three star treatment — ‘worth a trip’.

The Black Swan is a family run business with Tommy Banks running the kitchen and his brother James overseeing the front of house. The Banks family have transformed a country pub into a world renowned dining experience, knocking Martin Berasategui in Lasarte, Spain from the top spot it had held since 2015. 

 

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The menu

The isolated country setting looks idyllic although the single track road leading to it is less so. A warm, welcoming fire greats DonQui and Duchess as they settle into a comfortable seat to peruse the menu and sip on aperitifs. Despite the Black Swan’s global reputation the atmosphere is cosy and relaxed. The staff are young, friendly and very knowledgeable. 

 

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Celery and walnut tart

DonQui opts for an excellent Alsatian Pinot Blanc as his aperitif while Duchess is more adventurous with her Jerusalem artichoke cocktail which she thoroughly enjoys. To accompany their drinks they nibble on a delightful celery and walnut tart. DonQui is not a great fan of celery but he tastes none of the bitterness he normally associates with the vegetable. Instead, the combination of walnut, cream and celery blend together beautifully. 

Ushered upstairs to their table, DonQui and Duchess settle down to the remaining 11 courses of the tasting menu. DonQui also opts for the suggested wine pairings.

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Langoustine with salted strawberry

The langoustine with salted strawberry is exquisite — quite possibly the best single dish on the menu. As the other courses come DonQui increasingly feels that some are over-fussy with too much attention paid to artistic presentation and the chef’s technical skill which hides the taste of the fine local ingredients. 

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Scallops cured in rhubarb juice

Duchess is put off by the visceral rawness of some of the dishes from the venison tartare to the raw scallops in rhubarb juice. Why is it that so many chefs seem to think that raw food is the epitome of modern cooking? DonQui cannot order scrambled eggs in a posh restaurant anymore for fear of receiving a puddle of yellow liquid instead of something nice, light and fluffy.

The main lamb dish actually turns out to be three — sweetbreads, loin and rib. They are excellent. The loin is perfectly tender and pink, just as DonQui likes it and the rib is succulent and slightly salty. DonQui is too busy enjoying it to take a photo.

The matching wines are a mixed batch. The Sussex sparkling wine was touted as being as good as any champagne but DonQui does not agree. The Greek and South African whites are fine but not extraordinary.

Hand in hand wine
Baden Spätburgunder

On the other hand, the Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) from Baden, Southwest Germany, is exquisite. It is as good or better than many Burgundies he has sampled. With a slight peppery hint it goes superbly with the lamb. DonQui asks for a second glass. German wines are underrated in the Anglo-Saxon world, mainly because the good stuff is rarely exported. The best of them come from Baden.

The Black Swan certainly deserves its Michelin star but DonQui would not rate it as the best restaurant in the world. DonQui enjoys the meal and the atmosphere it but he can think of many others he has enjoyed more. These include the Great House in Lavenham, Suffolk;  Restaurant des Epicuriens near Laon, France and Jean-Luc Rabanel in Arles, France.

DonQui’s verdict is that the Black Swan is definitely worth a visit if you are planning to go to north Yorkshire but probably not worth a trip in its own right. Be advised that due to its popularity you will need to make reservations months in advance.

DonQui’s Easter Tradition

Every Easter DonQui likes to cook a whole leg of lamb for family and friends.

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The trick is getting a lovely fresh leg of spring lamb and marinating it in a herby-garlic mixture before roasting. DonQui feels particularly blessed as his butcher can be relied on to source him an excellent leg of local organic lamb.

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This has become something of a tradition and he has used the same recipe for years and he posted it last Easter on this blog under the title Easter lamb and so he will not repeat it now.

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Suffice it to say that it turned out as good as ever.

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An unusual and excellent accompaniment was a very good Canadian wine from British Columbia recently brought by DonQui’s sister from the other side of the world. Osoyoos Larose, from the Okanagan valley is a rich, well balanced, dusky dry wine reminiscent of a French Bordeaux. DonQui thought it went particularly well with the lamb.

 

 

Slow Roasted Lamb Shoulder

DonQui has been looking forward to trying out the lamb shoulder he had marinated overnight (see previous post).

img_9231As soon as he gets up, even before his morning cup of tea, DonQui chops up some vegetables (shallots, carrots and celery, along with a couple of garlic cloves and a sprig of rosemary) and pops them into a clay oven (Römertopf) which had been soaking in water overnight.

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The lamb goes on top along with the residual marinade (see previous post), a splash of white wine and a splash of lamb stock.

img_9233The lid goes on and the clay pot goes into a cold oven (otherwise it could crack) which DonQui turns up to 120º C. It resides undisturbed in the oven for the next 5 hours.

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DonQui seeks a peak at around the 3 hour point. All looks great and the kitchen is filled with the most wonderful smells.

img_9236Thirty minutes before serving, DonQui sets the meat off to one side to keep warm while he cooks up some red Camargue rice and prepares the vegetables.

img_9238To make the gravy he strains the lovely juices from the bottom of the clay pot into a base of lamb stock thickened with a roux of flour and butter. He discards the vegetables as they have done their job infusing the sauce. He separately prepares some far less cooked carrots, broccoli, mange-tout, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes  for eating.

DonQui apologises that he forgot to take a photo of the finished dish. The lamb was so tender that he just pulled it apart, set it on a bed of rice, and arranged vegetables around it. He poured some of the sauce overtop, with extra on the side along with some recurrent jelly.

He will most definitely try this again.

Food Anticipation

DonQui loves slow cooked food and he also loves lamb.

A neighbour who keeps sheep as living lawnmowers has just had a lamb slaughtered and DonQui takes the opportunity to acquire half of one of them.

He decides that tomorrow he would like to try cooking a slow roasted lamb shoulder.

lamb-shoulder

His first step is to marinate half a shoulder in a mixture of rosemary, thyme, white pepper and crushed garlic, along with a dash each of white wine and soy sauce, as well as a teaspoonful of Dijon mustard. He will leave this covered in the fridge overnight.

Easter Lamb

At Easter DonQui Oaty really likes to cook a leg of fresh spring lamb. He has been doing this for years following a recipe he has adapted from Gourmet Magazine (April 1990). As usual DonQui’s measurements are rather imprecise as he rarely measures anything precisely.

Ingredients
1 whole leg of lamb
2 carrots roughly chopped
2 onions quartered
1 celery stalk roughly chopped
olive oil

For the Marinade:
2 crushed garlic cloves
a good amount of chopped fresh rosemary
a good amount of chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon soy sauce
a good glug of olive oil
a good glug of dry white wine
lemon zest
pepper to taste

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Whisk together all the ingredients for the marinade in a small bowl. Rub into the lamb all over, reserving a bit for cooking later. Place the lamb in the roasting tray and loosely cover with foil. Leave to marinate in the fridge for at least 4 hours — even better if you can leave it overnight.

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On the feast day take the lamb out of the fridge at least an hour before cooking so it comes up to room temperature.

Pre-heat oven to 240ºC

Place the chopped vegetables on the bottom of the roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil. Place the lamb on a rack above them.

Put it in the oven and roast in the middle of the oven fat side up for 10 minutes at the high heat.

Turn down to 180º and roast for another 1 hr 10 mins (1hr 20 mins in total for a full leg)
At about the half-way point brush the lamb with the reserved marinade.

Take the lamb out of the oven and let stand for 20 minutes on the carving board while you prepare the gravy and finish off the vegetables.

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For the gravy DonQui uses his Rich Meat Sauce recipe (including the recurrent jelly) as the base. This he prepares well in advance. When the lamb is resting he deglazes the roasting pan with red wine and strains it into the gravy base. He also pours in the juices which collect in the channels on the carving board as the lamb rests.

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He serves with roast potatoes which he puts in the top of the oven at the half way point after the lamb has been cooking for 40 minutes. This gives them 60 minutes to get really nice and brown (the remaining 40 minutes cooking time plus the 20 minutes resting). DonQui is now quite proud of his roasties but it has taken him quite some time to master them. At some point he will write about his method.

For vegetables DonQui goes for a medley of baby carrots, fine green beans and baby corn. He parboils each for 4-5 minutes in advance. Then when the lamb is resting he swishes them around in a large pan with melted butter, salt pepper and thyme for a couple of minutes until they are well combined and nicely heated through.