The Great Northern has a new chef! Toby is in the house (or has been for nearly a month now), and having settled in, he wants to put his stamp on the St Alban’s dining scene. Unveiling his new summer menu at the Great Northern, I was invited (along with other friends/family/residents/bloggers and media people) to taste the new dishes, and provide some feedback on what I thought. Toby uses seasonal, locally sourced ingredients to come up with his menus that change week, on week, ensuring there is always something different available.
The plan was that throughout the evening, the wait staff would come round with taster portions of some of the dishes on the new menu and everyone could try a little bit of everything. Presented with the menu plan for the evening, we were able to see what was on offer. I was eating with my mum, who follows the Specific Carbohydrate Diet and we’d warned them about this in advance and were assured it would not be a problem.We arrived and I immediately noticed on the bar, bags of chilli spiced popcorn, the new bar snack that was going to be on offer. Not able to try this myself, I relied on reports from others that it was absolutely delicious and very moreish. I loved the presentation too, in the paper bags, very cute!
The first dish up, was the watermelon gazpacho. Checking that it wasn’t made with bread, (as some of them are) I grabbed a shot glass full and it was delicious, sweet and refreshing but with a hint of spice and black pepper, it would be the perfect start to any summer meal, or a refreshing lunch, out in the beer garden.
Then I managed to grab a taster of the pollock. I’d had the dish the week before at the last Great Northern trip and it was as good as I remembered. Flaky white fish and just the hint of curry in the lentils.
Then we had the risotto with wild garlic and peas, that unfortunately I couldn’t try, and also the lamb shoulder, that although sounded paleo, came out breaded. They looked delicious and i was getting pretty jealous, when all of a sudden, Toby appeared with a special SCD version of the lamb shoulder. Tasting, and falling apart, the meat had obviously been slow cooked and was delicious, and paired with the young peas and wild garlic so well, that there was no jealousy anymore. Mum was so touched that he’d gone to the effort to cook something especially suited to her diet and it was presented amazingly, the most beautiful dish of the night!
I never actually got to have a taster of the beef, I assume it must have been hoovered up by the other guests and never made its way to us, but I did get to try the sweet-breads. I wasn’t sure about these at the start. I’m not a big fan of offal or anything like that, so I was prepared for the worst when I ate it but it was surprisingly delicious. Whether that’s what they always taste like or it was down to Toby’s cooking I’m not sure, but they tasted like a delicate, very herbed sausage and i was seriously impressed – think I might even be a convert.
The desserts were a hit with the others, the fennel cream was a stand out I’m told but all in all a very successful menu launch with a sophisticated new menu. I will definitely be back in the next few weeks to give it a go when ordering a full meal. I think St Albans might just have another fine dining restaurant in town!