Monday, 23 January 2012

Giaconda Dining Room

In 2008 I was reading a review by Matthew Norman in The Guardian about a restaurant called The Giaconda Dining Room and he gave it very high praise indeed and marked it 9½ out of 10. I liked the review and loved the sound of the menu, so I gave it a go and fell in love with the place. The hardest part is staying away because I don't want to get complacent with the restaurant but every time I've been it has never disappointed.

Earlier in the week I was reading a posted blog on a great website called Petra Weblog and she wrote a review of the best dishes she had eaten during the year and listed baked eggs with spinach, cream and cheeses. (see blog HERE) She also said Giaconda is a hidden gem, a sentiment I completely agree with. So, yesterday I made my infrequent pilgrimage with three friends after going to the awful Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition at the National Gallery, (there were so many people that you couldn't see the drawing and paintings!) Like past experiences we had a great time, with some great food, good wine, wonderful service and great company.

Me and one of my friends started with crab bisque which was silky smooth with a tasty seafood flavour, with the crab meat being fresh and moist. One of my friends had roasted field mushrooms with garlic purée on top, with some roasted cloves of garlic on the side. The mushrooms were fleshy and moist, but there was way too much garlic and my friend was struggling towards the end, although she loved the roasted garlic, which was soft and sweet. My other friend had Danish smoked salmon, which was smoked locally in Denmark Street. He said it was well smoked without being overpowering and was very moist and the celeriac salad that came with it complemented it perfectly. I liked the way it was cooked, (which was medium) so the middle of the smoked salmon steak wasn't as well cooked as the edges, which is very rare in restaurants. When you order steak you have it cooked to how you like it and this works very well for fish too, especially salmon.

I had guinea fowl, with braised chicory, small potatoes and a sweet gravy which really went well with the bitter chicory and the fowl was lightly cooked and juicy. One friend had ham hock hash with braised red cabbage and fried egg, and two of them had the special of brill with saffron risotto. Everyone agreed it was well cooked with lovely flavours. With brill you have to be careful as it has a light and delicate flavour which can be over powered by other flavours, but my two friends said the risotto it came with didn't over power the fish.

None of us could face a dessert, but we did order four home made truffles which had a bitter sweet flavour. My only real moan was the coffee, which was a bit too bitter for my liking and even then I couldn't grumble too much as it went well with the truffles.

The menu doesn't change very often, but they do have a soup of the day and a different fish of the day depending on what fresh ingredients they get at the start of the day.

It is also a pleasure to see that over the years the standards haven't changed, which can so often happen with successful restaurants, plus they haven't moved into bigger premises so it hasn’t lost its charm. Giaconda is not the most stylish or the fanciest restaurant, but it serves honest, well cooked food in a cosy atmosphere, served with polite charm. Long may it continue and I think I might have to break my rule and start visiting it more often.

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