24 February 2009
91 Lordship Lane, East Dulwich, SE22 8EP
Tel: 020 8693 1629
The twinkle in my eye realised that Cupid must be in town to be treated to this rare and self-indulging night out at one of East Dulwich's finest eateries, writes David Yuill...
From the décor, fine wine, real ales and amazing food - this place is class and its reputation is genuinely well deserved. So what better time to spring it on the other half than in the week before Valentine's?
While many still hold the preconception of snobbery, dress codes and having to talk with a certain tone of voice… that is simply not the case. Is it wonderfully laid back, with regular drinkers propping up the bar putting the world to rights while groups, couples and friends enjoy the delights of the kitchen.
Much-celebrated Jamie Younger remains as the head chef, with the final say over the menu - but the young chefs who spend the arduous hours in the kitchen deserve a special mention of their own.
Whether a lonely Tuesday lunch or a heaving Saturday evening - the standard of the food and service is always top notch. The daily menu is seasonal and continues to throw up the odd surprise.
But this place is not cheap. Every main on the menu is in double figures but the ingredients, the standards and the results - like the price - are very high. To many it is a rare treat as a monthly splurge, but almost every penny is worth it.
The menu arrived and while generally impressive, an interpreter was needed for the likes of us.
Fortunately, the food-savvy and helpful staff were readily on hand to fill in the many blanks.
Up came the starters, which tasted even better than they looked. Both - though oddly composed - were a taste explosion. My full-flavoured and succulent wood pigeon (very different from the city pigeon) was masterfully married with the tangy balsamic vinegar and the sweet pomegranate. The duck-like taste of the pigeon was new to both of us, but the moreish dish is a favourite among diners.
Then, for something completely different but equally pleasant, came a real taste of the Orient.
The raw tuna was given a significant kick by some really hot wasabi, but then gently tamed by the soy sauce for a complete infusion.
The mains came up next and tasty and traditional feasts knocked the adventurous starters for six.
My perfectly cooked, tender and tasty rib-eye steak was just magic. Oddly shaped like Australia, the unaccompanied slab of meat looked rather lonely on the plate in its peppercorn sauce until the separately-ordered chips arrived.
Across the rustic table and in front of my wide-eyed Valentine sat a whopping shoulder of lamb delicately plonked on a mound of mashed celeriac - a taste and texture similar to mashed potato.
"De-lic-ious!" she beamed. "I'm trying to find something wrong with it - but no chance."
I understand exactly what she means. This place is good. It knows it and its customers know and rely on it providing. You find yourself waiting and almost wanting something to go wrong to end the perfect calm.
But as East Dulwich's oasis amidst the Lane's chaotic bars, bus routes and busy business people, the Palmerston continues to raise the bar as more and eateries and fine dining establishments sprout up.
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