Now that the last of the dregs of turkey/mince pie/stuffing/Christmas pudding/trimmings have finally disappeared, all that is left is a memory solidified in the form of a protuberant belly. Guilty already, or made to feel guilty about not feeling guilty, the media are swooping in with various juice cleanse, carb-less, gluten-free ‘detoxes’ which guarantee a temporary weight loss by simply starving the body. The word ‘detox’, however, means absolutely zero. To quote Edzard Ernst, Emeritus Professor of Complementary Medicine at Exeter University: “there are two types of detox: one is respectable and the other isn’t. The respectable one is the medical treatment of people with life-threatening drug addictions. The other is the word being hijacked by entrepreneurs, quacks and charlatans to sell a bogus treatment that allegedly detoxifies your body of toxins you’re supposed to have accumulated”.
So, if you’re minded to eat healthily after all the excess, then good quality, wholesome food is a much more sustainable way to go. Eating at Rabbit, the sister restaurant of The Shed, seems to fit in well with this philosophy. That’s not to say that I didn’t succumb to excess whilst there, and nor is it so worthy that eating there becomes an endurance test.
Rather, the ethos behind the restaurant is creating interesting, innovative and tasty recipes using seasonal and fresh local produce. The diner is reminded of this by the rustic outdoorsy interior, a bushy fox tail suspended above the open kitchen which brings you closer to nature whether you like it or not.
Whilst deciding what to order for our degustation my dining companion and I ordered a couple of “mouthfuls”: beetroot crisp, goat’s cheese, with pear jam:
And a mushroom marmite éclair.
As I noted in my most recent recipe, I had been averse to goat’s cheese after I overdosed when I was seven - until Rabbit cured me with the beetroot crisp. My dining companion was a marmite loather but it was incorporated so beautifully into the rich earthy truffleness of the éclair that he too overcame his dislike.
Still poring over the menu the couple at the adjacent table came to our aid, and very enthusiastically. So enthusiastic, in fact, that they admitted to having worked their way through every dish and would happily do an encore. They even donated the remainder of their butter with the instruction to slather it on whatever we could. One we had paired it with the freshly baked wild yeast bread it we began to understand the couple’s eagerness to share the joy. Freshly whipped, lightly salted and garlicky with finely chopped shallots:
The menu is simply divided into slow cooking and fast cooking. Although innovative in its layout, it was a little confusing regarding the size of the dishes, how many to order, and what the ideal dish pairings were. Both of the waitresses were absolutely delightful: friendly, informative and attentive without being intrusive, they guided us through the menu.
Our fast cooking dishes arrived first:
Brussels sprout, hazelnut, cheddar, and apple salad. The cheddar, as a rather unusual ingredient, drew me to the salad. It tied the ingredients together with its palate tickling savouriness.
The quail with roasted barley, turnip, shallot, and chickweed was also a success flavour-wise in its succulent sweet stickiness. I did, however, face an unwelcome surprise when I crunched down hard on a concealed bone…
Next to arrive in the flurry of dishes was grilled venison, onion squash, honey, pumpkin seeds, and reindeer moss.
Once again chef Oliver Gladwin’s creativity and sensitivity to ingredients shone through. The venison was perfectly pink, tender and complemented both visually and in flavour by the smooth onion squash puree.
The last of our main courses was the slow cooked black winter truffle, wild mushroom ragu with celeriac and sage oil.
The deep rich narcotic aroma of truffle preceded the dish’s arrival. Nor was its perfume illusory. The sage leaves were crisp to the point that they shattered against the other elements. The wild mushrooms were comfortingly meaty, chewy and luscious, and the puree of celeriac, so often dismissed as an ingredient, was sumptuous and creamy with a subtle tang of lemon. This is a dish that would unite meat lovers and vegetarians in perfect ambrosial harmony, and so good my dining companion and I were left fighting over the last mushroom- definitely one of my top dishes in London.
For dessert my dining companion ordered the magnum vienetta parfait: velvety ice cream rippled with layers of slated butterscotch and dark chocolate. It was with great reluctance that he allowed me to try it.
I was obliged by my maple syrup obsession to have maple syrup pudding, preserved plum, rum, and buttermilk.
This was intelligently assembled with the sourness of the buttermilk ice cream slicing through the sweetness of the pudding element. I would have liked a little more maple syrup on the plate, but as I’m an addict of the stuff it could just be me. The plums were a little under-ripe, too, but I imagine when they’re in season this dessert really comes into its own.
All in all, dining at Rabbit was a wonderful experience: great service, a tastefully playful rustic atmosphere, and innovative, fresh, flavourful, high quality cuisine. Ignore the detox lies, simply eat well – Rabbit is a great place to do just that (unless you find yourself eating the whole menu as the couple adjacent to me did, clearly easily done).
Suitable for: casual dates, celebrations, brunch, dinner, family, friends, vegetarians, vegans