I know naff all about alcohol. When it comes to booze, I have the taste of a thirteen year old girl - apparently I am the only person left on the planet who still thinks Archers and lemonade an acceptable order. In fact for a very, very, very long time, the closest I got to a drop was an Asda Rum Baba.
So when I'm kindly invited to a complimentary Sunday Roast and Vintage Vodka Tasting at Bob Bob Ricard by Kavey from Kavey Eats and one of the owners, Leonid Shutov, unlike 90% of the other guests, I'm genuinely only in it for the food.
Bob Bob Ricard, so called because Bob (aka Leonid) put up 2/3 of the investment and Ricard (aka Richard Howarth) put up 1/3, is tucked away off Brewer Street in Soho. It's an absolutely stunning restaurant - like a technicolour cruise ship - but somehow manages to stay on the right side of OTT.
We sit down at the table where some teeny vodka glasses have been laid at each place-setting. Leonid has joined us to guide us through the tasting.
He explains to us that vodka isn't meant to taste of anything in particular and is in fact downed neat as a heat-delivery system in cold climes such as Russia and Poland.
It also serves to sharpen the tastebuds like the ultimate palate cleanser - first you take a swig and then you eat the accompanying zakuski.
First up on the menu is the Kauffman Special Selected Vintage 2006 vodka which comes with Jellied ox tongue with creamed horseradish.
The Kauffman is a bit like being smashed in the face by an angel. I like it. I like the jellied ox tongue more. Despite having certain fanciful Medieval aspirations, I've never had anything in aspic before and it turns out it's ruddy good - like a posh version of the jellied bits of a pork pie.
The second vodka is Stolichanaya Elit served with Russian salt-cured Herring, raw onion rings and new potatoes.
It's good but not as ethereal as the Kauffman and it makes the herring taste weirdly sweet. Followed swiftly by a bite of raw onion and potato however, it all begins to make sense.
Next up is Imperia by Russian Standard served with Salmon roe on hard-boiled quail eggs. Decreed by Czar Alexander III in 1894 as “The Standard of Vodka” for the royal court of Russia, this is actually not half as interesting as the first two.
The double egg treat is fabulous though - I adore keta caviar anyway but combined with quail's eggs, I could pop dozens of these beauties in my mouth as if they were jewelled sweets.
An interlude now as we get stuck into some of the other zakuski dishes. There's Chicory, pear and cured ham salad, with olive oil jelly cubes, almonds and olive oil dressing.
This is stunning but does not quite live up to expectations, though the jelly cubes are fun and more than merely decorative.
Wafer-thin cured Orkney beef with a crunchy celeriac salad, fresh blueberries and roasted hazelnuts is much more successful.
Salty beef, peppery celeriac and zesty blueberries are a harmonious match in texture as well as flavour.
Wafer-thin pickled beetroot and goat’s cheese salad with fresh mint makes me unhappy - but then goat's cheese always makes me unhappy.
The slivered beetroot is beautifully sweet and zingy though and I pick it off and eat it by itself like a Philistine.
The Potted Shrimp, Baby Watercress, Croutons, Lemon is outstanding.
Buttery shrimps spiced delicately with cayenne and nutmeg, savoury and comforting, I'm loth to share this with the others.
More vodka now. The Beluga Noble Vodka is served with Quail eggs mayonnaise with anchovies.
This is Leonid's favourite zakuski and the salty-sweet combination of flavours works well.
Meat Pelmeni comes with Beluga Gold Line Vodka.
You know, by now I have genuinely lost interest in the vodka (Philistine, remember?) and am focused on dunking the fat dumplings in vinegar and soured cream and jamming the gorgeous, meaty parcels in my mouth.
Stolichnaya Gold Vodka is served with Salo on Rye bread. Salo is basically the same as lardo. I have to admit that much as I love fat generally, I'm unimpressed by the greasy mouthfeel and absence of any real flavour.
Moreover, the Stoli is harsher than the preceding vodkas so this is my least favourite pairing.
Sipsmith Vodka is the only English vodka we try. I rather like this although oddly it tastes a lot like gin (ironic considering).
It comes with lightly home-pickled Malosol cucumbers which I adore for their addictive crunch and tang.
I'm flagging by now, but next comes copper pans of Sunday roast rib of 28-day aged Aberdeenshire Scotch beef, Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, caramelised carrots and parsnips.
It's bloody brilliant, especially the flowerpot shaped Yorkshire pud but I can barely make a dent.
Thankfully, we have separate dessert stomachs (or something like that) and so after a bit of bickering we all order different sweets so we can try as many as possible.
We also order the signature Rhubarb G&T - these are heavenly.
So for puds we have: Grand Marnier soufflé with chopped fresh orange in a Grand Marnier sauce - tangy and fluffy.
Bramley and Cox apple jelly with cream, corrugated apple and shortbread - the jelly tastes like the purest cloudy apple juice and the shortbread melts into a sugary kiss. This is by far my favourite.
Warm chocolate fondant with pistachio ice cream is perfectly judged, gooey cocoa joy.
Raspberry sherry trifle is well made but not particularly inspiring, although I'm awfully impressed by the generous smattering of hundreds and thousands.
And last but not least is the Plate of BBR cakes comprising Battenberg, Victoria Sandwich, Rum Baba (Rum Baba! Rum Baba!), Cream Horn, Raspberry and Custard tart.
This wondrous platter makes me feel like a six year old - it's all so vibrant, I half expect them to jump one by one into my mouth Young Sherlock Holmes style.
And finally a pot of green tea is ordered to wrap things up - a very genteel way to end a delightful and rather fun meal.
I do like Bob Bob Ricard. And I still need to push that button.
Bob Bob Ricard
1-3 Upper James Street
London W1F 9DF
020 3145 1000
1-3 Upper James Street
London W1F 9DF
020 3145 1000
Yet another delicious post my love.
@knit nurse - Ooh, it does look like a paperweight, doesn't it? I don't remember Plasticraft - we were all obsessed with Fimo though :)
Envious, what a meal!
Always food first - must fight the hangrrr!
I really want to go here, i love Russian food, i love pickled things (including my liver) and I love lots of small plates of sharing food.
Soon my precious, soon.... *gollumn*
Except mine was my wife.
Great post MiMi, very jealous and you never did save me any vodka did you! >:[
(HA! today's word verication is foricski, kinda appropriate)
@Food Urchin - We told you to come. Everyone told you. I brought back an empty bottle - you can have that.
Yeah, go to BBR - it's dead jolly.
This post has also made me want to visit a restaurant more than any other I've ever read. I've never had Russian food but it all looked SO good. That's another one on the ever lengthening list then; I clearly need to eat out more.
That is the loveliest compliment I've had in a long time - thank you xx
(An old favourite)
Oh nooo, now you've reminded me of fimo and plasticraft. I already went through a whole magic shrinking plastic revival last year, making keyrings and jewellery from my shrinking sheets! Gah!
Oh, and BADGERS
@aforkfulofspaghetti - You need a fancyman.
And please don't forget the book (I haven't :-)) )
Still waiting for the book deal :)
Luiz @ The London Foodie
The salo was just that bit too greasy for me I think.
Yes, it was a lovely afternoon x
@Jones - Awww, you are sweet, thank you. Also, I'm going to remember that offer!
@Rachel - Cool! It's such a fun place and the little dishes are wonderful :)