At £115 per person for cocktail, food and wines, I was not sure that a visit and write-up of The Loft would be in keeping with the aim of The London Foodie – which is to bring good quality, value for money London restaurants to friends and followers. I am glad that my curiosity got the better of me – because as I was to find out, at £115 per head, The Loft is surprisingly good value.
There were about 16 guests, a rather beautiful and well dressed crowd of mid-twenty and early-thirty professionals; the lighting and decor were elegantly thought out helping to create a warm and friendly atmosphere. Guests arrived from 7:30pm and mingled, sipping lychee martinis whilst nibbling on lovely cheesy choux pastries and other yummy canapés until about 8:30pm when the first of 12 courses was served.
#1 - To start the evening, Nuno presented us with a ravioli-type morsel filled with a whole fresh oyster and mango pieces, topped with green chilli, radish and with accompanying jelly. The pasta was paper thin, bursting into the mouth to release the tastes of fresh sea and tropical fruit - a heavenly and most original combination.
#2 – This was followed by our second dish, described in their menu as “harvest vegetables and fruit salad”. This consisted mainly of thinly sliced tomatoes of varying sizes and colours, mange-tout, chick peas, strawberry and watermelon in a clear and much reduced tomato consommé, and dotted with small “spherified” cheesy bubbles.
#3 – Next on the menu was “Marinated and Charred Sea Bass, Green Apple, Daikon and Crispy Ponzu” – the raw fish was delicately marinated/cured giving it a slightly meatier consistency than a more straightforward sashimi. The Ponzu sauce, a very popular Japanese sauce made mainly from yuzu juice, dashi stock, mirin and vinegar had been jellified, frozen and grated and then served as an accompanying granita. The addition of green apple puree was also interesting making the dish well balanced.
#4 – This was followed by a warm cream of soya milk, heavily infused with truffles, and served with aubergines and “umeboshi”, a very sour & sweet Japanese pickle made of unripe plums. To accompany this, Nuno also served us a small tumbler of aubergine consommé flavoured with dashi stock. As a Brazilian-Japanese, I found his fusion cuisine very inspirational.
#5 – The “Prawn Confit, Chilled Pea Puree and Buttered Hazelnuts” was also very successful and beautifully presented.
#6 – Our next dish, rightly named “L’Explosion Thailandais” was very intriguing, and one I find the most challenging to describe. It was a tumbler that conjured up the flavours of a nation – coconut milk, nam pla, holy basil, and the like. Flavours were complex and incredibly well balanced. It was served with a nutty, spicy mixture and grated daikon.
#7 – I love razor clams, and was delighted to see his next dish, “Razor Clams, Pickled Carrots, Enoki Mushrooms and Basil” – it was again beautifully presented with the curly pea shoot greens giving it a delicate and elegant look. It was topped with a delectable dried coconut crumble.
#8 – I had come across the concept of Sous Vide cooking before but had never actually tried it until The Loft (Sous vide is French for « under vacuum » and describe a method of cooking in vacuum sealed plastic pouches at low temperatures for long times). I was blown away by Nuno’s “Slow Cooked Eggs, Potato and Iberico Crumb, Pear Puree and Thickened Milk”. The eggs had been cooked for 45 minutes or so apparently at 63˚C, and were deliciously runny. The Iberico ham and potatoes were nice additions giving the dish a very hearty feel. It was definitely one of the simplest but nicest dishes of the evening.
#9 – Nuno’s “Onion Soup Moderne” was indeed a very sophisticated and modern take on one of the most classic of French dishes. Again, we were presented with his delicious “spherified cheesy balls”, and very good it was.
#10 – One of the stars of the evening however was the “Sirloin of Beef, Mushroom Caramel and Spiced Mushrooms” dish. Using the concept of Sous Vide, Nuno’s sirloin was cooked for 3 ½ hours at 65˚C. The meat was the most tender I have ever tasted, bright red inside but not bloody, intensely flavoured, it melted in the mouth.
#11 – The least successful dish of the evening was the “Cauliflower and Strawberries” dessert that followed. It was an interesting concept, but one that did not quite work for me. The vegetable taste of the cauliflower was very much at odds with the sweet strawberry. It was a fun dish, but not one I would order at a restaurant.
#12 - Our last dish of the evening was Nuno’s “Warm Chocolate Fondante Mango and Black Olive”. This was an interesting dish, with rich and distinct flavours that worked surprisingly well together.