Telling It Like It Is - The Walpole
Great food with the perfect verbal garnish
I don't like sales patter. But it was the sales technique that sold this classy understated establishment for me. The food was already memorable, but the manner in which it was served made it unforgettable.
We'd already been to the Walpole for their famous breakfast, and had pinched their brown paper and crayon idea for an event of our own. The place is quirky and does a mean Full English, but I couldn't picture how it would translate to an evening meal...
Not a crayon in sight, but I was pleased to see the trademark brown paper was still adorning tables. Effortlessly the breakfast joint is transformed into a cosy bistro. I was impressed.
A smattering of young waitresses did an excellent job of meeting and greeting and brought us bread, drinks and menus. So far, an example of faultless service. Box ticked.
The fixed price dinner (two courses £17.50, three courses £22.50) ticked too many boxes really – there wasn't a dish we didn't fancy, which was making things tricky...until we got the Wendy treatment.
The owner personally explains every dish on the menu before you're allowed to order. And if we were already sold on the food, I was now ready to give my companion's right arm for it.
Clearly we were there to eat so this couldn't really be called sales, but Wendy's presentation was something to be witnessed – a genuine love of ingredients and her husband Louis' treatment of them was contagious. Not only were we told where the pork loin had come from, how the terrine was cooked, that the olive oil had been hand pressed by a relative, but Wendy had made us enough at home to feel able to ask what Gilthead Bream was.
We spotted Lagunilla Reserve Rioja on the wine list – not cheap at £25 a bottle, but since it was the wine we used for our wedding it had special resonance for us. Please note we can't claim to have spoiled our wedding guests with our choice – it came in at £4 a bottle on a Tesco Direct bulk order at the time... Whatever the price, it's still a very good wine.
Finally we made our choices. I had the Barolo and Gorgonzola Risotto, my companion the Barbary Duck Terrine with Cumberland Sauce. Both were delicious – amazing strong flavours. Perfect except for one thing – I was already stuffed!
I followed the risotto with Yorkshire Venison, Cherry Sauce, Pomme Puree and Spinach. Absolutely everything I could have wanted, and then some. My compadre had the Slow Cooked Lamb Shank, Colcannon, Glazed Carrots and Mint Sauce, and for him it was the best he has had in London, matched only by a great place we used to go to in Yorkshire. Our only criticism was the portion size again. Not for our sakes - we certainly weren't left hungry, but for their profit margins. However tempting the puddings were, even we knew it would break us.
Go and meet Wendy and Louis for a bite to eat. And stuff yourselves!
June 4, 2007