Tom, Riad, James and I went to Boston last weekend to sample the delights of the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, and take advantage of the Bush Peso's continuing weakness. This was my first time in the LHR Clubhouse, and I've got to say - it's extraordinary. It puts any other airline lounge I've ever been to in the shade. I can understand why people rave about it, and why it gets people hooked on Virgin. It won't change my flying patterns for the most part, as I value the onboard service much more highly, but I do hope to get in there again some time.
The unchallenged highlight of the holiday was our meal at L'espalier in Boston. A fantastic French restaurant, with impeccable service, I can only highly recommend it to anybody. We had Chef McClelland's Tasting Journey - a surprise tasting menu over 7 or 8 courses, with matching wines to each course. There's an example menu on the site, but the menu changes every night.
For our menu, we started with an amuse bouche of bass with remoulade. The first course (served naturally with French rosé champagne) was Boston oysters, served with American caviar, and fried breaded sweetbreads served with Italian caviar. There are so many worrying words in that sentence, that I was quite nervous about the course, but it was fantastic. My first experience of oysters was great, and the sweetbreads weren't anywhere near as strong as my previous experience with them.
We moved on to lobster claw, served on a bed of potato puree, with (as some kind of foody joke) a little piece of smoked beef, held in the claw of the lobster. This last piece was unannounced and came as a real surprise. The lobster was, of course, topped off with more caviar - French, I think.
Next up was a delicious serving of sea bass, on a crab risotto with (you've guessed it) Italian caviar. This also came with some kind of breaded shellfish (bigger than a clam), which I entirely failed to catch the name of. This was one of the early highlights of the meal.
We had an intermezzo of Miso ice cream, served with cayenne pepper and wasabi. This was my first experience of savoury ice cream, and it was amazing. Not so much of a palate cleanser - it was incredibly lively and exciting to eat.
The gastronomic highlight of my life was coming up: Fois gras and ginger cake, with a pineapple piece and a pistachio coulis. This was served with an astonishing Riesling, without the sickly sweetness that you associate with the grape, but coming very close to a desert wine. The pairing was fabulous, the meal was surprising and delicious. At this point, I ran out of superlatives to describe the meal.
On to the main courses, and first up was Guinea fowl with wild mushrooms and shaved black truffle. They actually brought a rather huge truffle, which must have been worth a fortune, and shaved it liberally over the mushrooms. I was surprised at quite how much we got. The fowl was perfectly cooked, and the mushrooms and truffle were gorgeous.
Next, the disappointing lamb medallion. It was served with a carrot puree (and something else that slips my mind). It would be perfectly acceptable in any hotel meal, but it failed to stand up to the rest of the meal. (Also, I'm not a huge fan of lamb)
The final savoury course was Venison, with a chocolate and orange sauce, served with a Winter casoullet with blood sausage. This was fantastic, and was the richest course in the meal. Naturally it was served with a huge meaty red. (I wish I'd take a notepad to write down all the names). I loved it - there was a very small amount of blood sausage, but that small amount so infused the casoullet with its flavour that it was the perfect amount.
A good cheese board, with two excellent cheeses and four good ones followed, and then a pre-desert and a trio of deserts. The deserts were unfortunately not up to the standards of the meal, and I suspect that Chef McClelland isn't particularly interested in desert.
That said, by the time we finished, we were well stuffed, and quite sozzled. It was an amazing experience, and one I'd love to repeat. As I mentioned at the start of this post, if you find yourself in Boston, I strongly recommend it, as a blow-out. If you're celebrating a special occasion, it would be perfect!