As flagged in last week's post on Le Cafe Anglais, I returned a few days later, broad grin on face, to sample more of the rather alluring menu, this time with two other pairs of snapping teeth by my side.
Of the £3 hors d'oeuvres, the only dish not previously sampled was the leeks in a vinaigrette with an aubergine caviar. This is tasty with a pleasant acidity, though much less exceptional than the salsify fritters and the anchovy toasts with parmesan custard - neither of which should be omitted from any order here.
The team shared three starters. First up was the exceptional pike boudin (sausage) with herbs and beurre blanc (£7.50). This dish reminded me of the ethereal scrambled eggs that used to be served at Melbourne's Flower Drum many years ago - disrobes and shimmies before the richness melts on the tongue like a fond memory. The pike flavour is very mild.
The foie gras terrine (£11) is as good as any I've eaten - buttery, tasty and a worthy contender to Comptoir Gascon's terrines. On the down-side, the PX jelly served with the foie grois is a bit disappointing. I drink PX often and can think of nothing finer on a cold wet night, but this was a thin, watery, plastic-beard-and-glasses PX impostor, in much need of some further sweetness and acidity to cut the richness of the foie gras.
Anyone bored enough to spend more than three seconds on this web-site will know that I'm quite keen on white truffles. Le Cafe Anglais' menu contains two white truffle dishes: a steak tartare and a fonduta with salsify. We ordered the steak tartare (£31.50). Mistake, mistake, mistake.
The raw beef is good but not sufficient reason to part with £30 for this starter. You order it for the white truffle. And the white truffle here was seriously and sadly underwhelming.
The knee weakening wow! of any white truffle experience is the shaving - breaking the knobbly skin with a razor sharp blade and the snowing decent of wafery flakes. Yes, I love the theater here, but more importantly, it's the crucial moment when all the aroma molecules are released. The white truffle on Cafe Anglais' steak tartare was shaved in a room far far away, like a porn-star's pubic hair. The aroma and flavour of the few sordid back-room shavings was mild, not pungent, not pronounced and not worth the cash. What should have been 61 Latour was Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Claret.
White truffles are still scarce this season and more expensive than ever before. So what! Cafe Anglais should remove the steak tartare and the fonduta from its menu until it can shave good quality fresh white truffles over these dishes at the table. If it doesn't, of the customers who order these dishes, the white truffle lovers will frown and white truffle virgins will continue to wonder what all the fuss is about.
Much much better news on the mains. The roasted hare (£18) is a must if you like game and you're happy to eat rare meat - tender with a stunning barnyard dirtiness and enormous depth of flavour. This is game that's spent its life dancing on amphetamines.
The pheasant with chacroute (sauerkraut), bacon and franfurter (£18) is another superb dish. One glimpse and you're whooshed back to Alsace, or in my case, Alsatian brasseries in Paris. As you'd expect, the pheasant is much gamier than the chicken (though much less so than the hare) yet just as juicy and tender.
I ordered a cheese platter for dessert, which is great value at £9. I was assured by my mates that the sorbets (£6) are also pretty good if you can fit them in.
So has my view on Le Cafe Anglais changed following the second visit? Not really, I still think the place is great, particularly the hors d'oeuvres and the roasts. But if you're fond of white truffles, head to Alba in October/November, not to Bayswater.