Sunday, 25 July 2010

Lunch with Jeff

Warning - non dieting entry (aka food porn) ahead.

So yesterday, D treated me to lunch at one of our absolute favourite restaurants.  I may have mentioned before that we live in York, which is beautiful with many lovely places to visit, but in terms of high end dining it is slightly lacking.  J Baker's Bistro Moderne, which opened up about five years ago, is the only place in the city that I would wholeheartedly recommend if you were after a really special meal.  And, amazingly when you consider the quality, the price is incredibly low.

We've been back many times both for quick lunches and more lingering dinners and never, ever been disappointed.  The food is always tasty and often shows not only the chef's skill with his raw ingredients but also a quirky sense of humour.  One of the hallmarks of the menu is the nods to British classics presented in a fresh, modern and sometimes unexpected way.

Yesterday we both opted for the lunchtime grazing menu, which consists of three light courses for £12, plus a complimentary pre-lunch nibble which on this occasion was a spiced aubergine dip with breadsticks and radishes for dunking.  I forgot to take a picture - both of this and of our first course, an Inca tomato salad.  I'm not quite sure what the Inca part of it was, but it was a good start - tomatoes, olives, lettuce and feta with a glistening scoop of cucumber sorbet that was both sweet and refreshing.

At this point, D remarked that I would never make a food blogger if I kept forgetting to take photos so I sat my camera on the table next to me.  Giles Coren, the Times restaurant critic, recently kicked up a bit of a fuss by complaining about food bloggers in restaurants who insist on taking pictures of their food.  I say, what's the harm?  A delicious dish can be just as valuable a memory as a visit to a beautiful landmark as far as I'm concerned - in fact, when we discuss past holidays, more often than not we find ourselves reminiscing about the food just as much if not more than the culture or the scenery.   Anyway, from here on in there are illustrations!

Beer battered salt cod with chips and chervil mayonnaise

The second course proper was the above pictured piece of salt cod.  The picture doesn't really do it justice because it doesn't convey just how crispy that batter was.  It shattered as you pressed your fork into it with the most satisfying crackle I've heard on a piece of fish this year.   I loved the creamy mayonnaise as well, and the salty pop of the samphire garnish.  The only disappointment here was the chips - a little oily tasting and, well, flabby.  I like a crisp chip.  But smothered in mayo with a sprinkle of sea salt, it was a minor complaint.

Slow cooked lamb with aubergine chutney and saffron oil

Next came this lamb which I thought was absolutely amazing.  It had been cooked for twelve whole hours with the result that it was incredibly sweet and tender - you only had to look at if for it to fall apart with a gentle sigh.  The aubergine chutney was fab as well - we identified aubergine, courgette, onion, garlic and tomato among the tiny little cubes; there was a slight vinegar kick, enough to set off the sweetness of the meat (which we think was seasoned with cumin and cinnamon) without becoming sour.  This is definitely a dish I'm going to try and recreate at home, and actually think it could be made pretty WW friendly.

Ivoire Chocolate Sandwich with cherries and lavender

Sticky chocolate cake with drunken cherries

At this point we were at a good stage of fullness.  But there is no way, unfortunately, that I can go to JB and not indulge in a pudding.  My sweet tooth has receded a little as I've got older, and I'm more likely to opt for a starter nowadays than a pudding, but here, all bets are off.  We both went for chocolatey options - D's sticky chocolate cake was excellent, but the sandwich...oh, my.  I'm not sure the picture does it justice; the white, gooey bit in the middle was a dense white chocolate and lavender mousse: sweet, thick and with a slight perfume, but the sharp cherries and the bitter dark chocolate ice cream prevented the whole thing from being overly cloying.  I would have licked the plate if I had been at home, as it was, I may well have been guilty of running my finger round to try and scoop up the last vestiges of mousse.

Now,  I have no idea how many points were in that lunch, and I'm not even going to hazard a guess.  As I said back here eating out is one of my greatest joys, and I have personally decided that, if WW is going to be a feasible plan for me, I don't intend to worry about the odd extravagant meal.  And for all that I can't wait for the day when I slip into a pair of size 10 jeans again, lunch with Jeff every now and then is an indulgence I don't plan to give up.


  1. J Baker's is a lovely restaurant, I've been eating Jeff's food since his Pool Court days.

    Loving your blog, although I prefer the recipes and food writing to the deep insight [smiley face]

    Dee Treau

  2. Oh wow - that sounds like a fantastic meal - I'm not up in York often, but I'll definitely keep that place in mind for when I am!!

    I think you're right - the occasional meal out isn't going to kill you or your healthy-eating efforts, and if you're anything like me, denying yourself a real pleasure like that just leads to me getting resentful and straying waaaaaaay off the reservation as a result!

    Best of luck for this week x

  3. Yum - I'm coming up there, sounds (and looks) delish! And yah boo sucks to Gile Coren - he seemed so nice on that programme with Sue Perkins but he's very narrow minded and opinionated. He's also the one who said that fat people should be taxed. Not mouthy people, obviously.


  4. Looks amazing. Definitely need a treat every now and then, this WW business is a way of life, and that means food out on occasion (although I seem to have too many of those occasions!)