This blog started as a hobby, something I could do in my spare time, giving me a place to note down my experiences of two of my absolute passions: food and dining out. Never for a moment did I consider that people would not only read my ramblings let alone care enough about my opinion to invite me for a meal at their restaurant in exchange for a piece talking about my experience !
A little under a month ago I received an email asking me to do just that, my partner can vouch for me when I say that I was like a child at Christmas for the next few hours.
The kitchen at No.5 uses a variety of local and seasonal ingredients to offer a selection of British influenced dishes across their tapas style ‘Grazing Menu’. The concept is based around the idea of sharing. Each person orders a selection of these ‘mini dishes’ (no more than four per person is recommended), and these dishes are then shared out between the group as you wish. There’s something about this manner of dining that lends itself perfectly to first dates, social gatherings and family meals out.
So, on Friday night off we went to No.5 Bridge Street, just one of the six venues in the Ideal Collection Hospitality Group.
After weaving our way through the busy bar area, we were greeted by two friendly waitresses and shown to our table. Having done some homework on their menus before our meal, we had a fair idea of what we were intending to order. Unfortunately as we were presented with the menus, we were informed that three dishes were unavailable, two of which we had identified as potential candidates. A shame, as I was rather looking forward to sampling their Longhorn beef tartare, crispy cockles, raw mushroom and sea vegetables and my partner, the Blackmoor venison, turnips, cima di rapa coffee and port. A bit of a disappointment it has to be said, but not being fussy eaters it wasn’t a hard task to find alternatives.
The drinks list, stretching over 36 pages, gives you pretty much everything you could ask for. Celebrating with a glass of bubbly? Don’t want to spend the earth? Check. Want some bubbly made in Hampshire? Check. Feeling flush and really want to splash out? Double check. Red, White or Rosé? It doesn’t matter – they’ve got it! Perhaps spirits are more your thing? A list of Vodka’s, Rums, Whisk(e)y’s and Gin’s that would make my spirits cupboard jealous, including examples from ex crisp manufacturer, William Chase and more local producers, Twisted Nose and Silverback Gin distilleries. After that, Cocktails, Mocktails, Liqueurs, Cognac, Tea and Coffee, Soft drinks, Juices, you get the picture?
Kicking things off were 3 pulled beef sliders with bacon jam and Monterrey Jack cheese. On ordering, we were offered a fourth slider to prevent any fights breaking out over the last one. A nice gesture but, wanting to have room for everything, we declined. The sliders themselves, were not anything to write home about. An overly dry brioche bun gave way to equally dry pulled beef. Whilst the bacon jam was present, more of it would have been beneficial.
Chalk stream hot smoked trout, wasabi, mascarpone and red wine shallots were next up. A healthy amount of well-cooked trout was placed on top of a piece of bread, alongside the slightly sweet red wine shallots, the wasabi made itself known with a subtle warmth. For my partner, this was the dish of the evening.
Arriving shortly after, came the Lymington crab arancini, fennel and apple salad, bisque. Perfectly golden and crisp balls of rice housed the understated sweetness of crab which balanced wonderfully with the hint of acidity provided by the apple and fennel.
Unlike traditional tapas, the dishes were not brought out together. This was advantageous for two reasons. The first being that it allowed for the enjoyment of each dish without feeling rushed to move onto the next before it got cold. Secondly, the tables were not large enough to hold all six dishes plus drinks and cutlery at the same time, with one waitress noting that it was “like playing Tetris with plates”.
The confit duck leg, chicory, squash, and PX raisins was the fourth dish to join the party. I’ve eaten a fair amount of duck in my 24 years on this planet. Some of which has been cooked using this method and I have to say, this wasn’t a bad effort. To give you an idea of how well it was cooked, when my partner went to pick it up it fell cleanly off the bone. The delightfully crisp skin took me back to many a childhood evening when I would be caught in the kitchen devouring the scraps of the roast chicken skin. The duck itself was overcooked in parts, possibly due to spending too long in the pan after its initial slow cook. This resulted in the leg being moist in some parts, with other areas being quite dry.
Next came my personal highlight of the evening, the wild mushroom risotto, tarragon and brioche crumbs and egg yolk. This was probably one of the best risottos I’ve eaten. The rice perfectly al dente, with a slight crunch of the brioche crumbs adding a wonderful texture to the dish. If I had to criticise, I would question whether risotto had a place on this type of menu. Risotto being a filling dish anyway, I feel a smaller portion would have done the job just as well and not left me feeling full with another dish plus desserts still to go.
Charred sweet potato, saffron yoghurt, coriander, and chick peas was the final main of the evening. This was a good dish to end with. The pomegranate seeds, yoghurt and coriander all delivered a freshness, needed not only in order to balance the dish, but for us too after four previous heavy dishes.
Finally we arrived at the desserts, coming in the form of Affogato and Rhubarb and Custard. The Affogato, a classic Italian dessert, combined an espresso with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream which went down a treat. The Rhubarb and Custard, their take on a British classic, was beautifully presented and thankfully wasn’t all mouth and no trousers. Soft rhubarb was placed between the balls of light custard and shortbread, with a sorbet adding refreshment to the dish.
The service at No.5 was welcoming, friendly and attentive making up for some of the faults in the dishes. One of our waitresses, Rema, was particularly delightful her friendly and chatty demeanour helping to put us at ease. Over the course of the two hours we were there it got progressively busier with a range of customers entering to dine in the restaurant or drink at the bar. Live music playing in the bar added to the relaxed atmosphere, without slowing the flow of service. The food, although not perfect, was homely and comforting and that, is no bad thing.
My meal at No.5 Bridge Street was complimentary thanks to Ideal Collection. For even more information, menus, or to book a table visit the link below: