Restaurant review: The French Pantry, Ludlow
First, you’ll be relieved to hear, this time GL was able to remember what he ate. The foodless restaurant review was a novelty well worth a try but perhaps a tad too avant-garde. Second the French Pantry is owned by a friend, Simon, so there will be no pretence that this is a neutral review: but had it been shit this review would not have been written. As it is TFP is GL’s favourite restaurant in Ludlow and he did pay his own tab.
Mr & Mrs GL were accompanied to TFP by two glamorous sophisticated London types: Betty & Rufus, respectively a historical person and a journalist. We hoped to impress them with our knowledge of fine eating and experience of indoor lavatories. We even made sure there was no dung on our wellies, well sophisticated us.
That said GL’s first faux pas was to order the Burgundy snails. Not that there is anything wrong with snails and TFP’s rendition of them was perfect, but if one asked Egon Ronay to fry a car tyre it would still taste like a car tyre. GL adores snails. He really does but he can’t figure out why: they taste like pencil rubber. And that’s why they come slathered in garlic butter. If you presented GL with a bucket of his own entrails slathered in garlic sauce he’d eat them and he suspects most people would. But the puzzle & paradox of snails remains: characterless yet desired. To rub it in the waitress said that it was almost exclusively men who ordered them. The crushing implicit suggestion was that it was just a testosterone thing. GL?! Macho?
Rufus was jolly sporting and rather than a well deserved snigger at GL he ordered the snails as well and was just as delighted. If you like snails TFPs are as good as they get. They don’t make much of starter however, being rather insubstantial, and GL would rather have had them as an extra, a starter starter.
Main course for GL was Grilled Hake Fillet, Seafood & Chorizo Paella. It’s always a pleasure to see a bowl of lemoned water arrive to accompany one’s dish; things will become tactile and messy. Shelling prawns is very schoolboyish fun – a bit like pulling the wings off flies but more socially acceptable and less likely to result in a trip to the school psychiatric counsellor. TFP’s Paella suffered from a slight excess of liquid. It should have been bone-dry unlike, say, Risotto which should be a bit sticky, but it was no big deal as the flavour was fragrant and it wasn’t overwhelmed with the pointless extras that usually ruin the simplicity of Paella. The Hake was exquisite: firm and sweet crumbling at the lightest press of a fork.
Rufus had Moules Marinieres a dish that comes with lemon water and, traditionally, an obligation to build a small castle out of the empty shells. The mussels were fine (they were in the Paella too) and no-one in their right mind drinks the liquor so who can say what that was like?
Betty and Mrs GL had the Toulouse Style Cassoulet. This is a dish more suited to a winter’s evening: so heavy & filling that after few bowls one could go out and plough the fields without needing a tractor. In truth Mrs GL has always politely declined to be hooked up to a plough to test this thesis. Having had the generosity to finish off Mrs GL’s Cassoulet GL can say that the duck was delicate and fell off the bone easily; the sausage was garlicy and well textured. Betty wasn’t keen on the oiliness of the dish but one suspects that was merely dieter guilt: she is known to be a bit mental.
TFP is a tiny place so it can get a bit ‘intimate’ and there is usually some bellend talking too loudly. That was us on Wednesday but the service is good and the bill reasonable enough that there was no point in doing the usual runner when it arrived (Plus, Simon has our home address).
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