I went into an absurd amount of detail about my tangible birthday gifts from Jeremy, but I haven’t yet mentioned my other traditional birthday present: a Big Meal Out. Last year’s birthday involved a trip to Sevendials, and while it was very, very tempting to go there again, I decided to break out of the rut and try someplace else. After trying and failing to get a reservation at Hotel du Vin (which we’ve been to once before, a long time ago), there was nothing for it but to really splash out and take a chance on the somewhat more froufrou One Paston Place, which Jeremy and I had been intrigued by for quite some time.
It certainly didn’t disappoint. We were the first ones in the restaurant that night, which can be a bit funny, but in this case it was rather nice. It was a gorgeous evening, and the restaurant (which is housed in a white-washed, high-ceilinged room) was bright and inviting, all the wine glasses sparkling on the linen-covered tables and classical music playing softly in the background. I had a tasty little champagne cocktail while we perused the menu and the wine list at a leisurely pace.
One Paston Place is the type of restaurant where you get fancy little interim courses between the stuff that you actually order. So before our starters arrived, we were treated to an amuse-bouche in the form of a tomato gelee topped with tiny, tiny cubes of buffalo mozzarella, and an avocado and red onion salsa topped with a fresh prawn, both of which were served in big white spoons, and both of which were veritable taste explosions in the mouth. Afterwards, I had my starter of grilled scallops on top of a little mound of things I actually no longer remember (the scallops were delicious enough to have been served entirely on their own, really), and Jeremy tucked into a plate of light, tender gnocchi with langoustines, prawns and saffron.
Our main courses were very meaty and wonderful. I couldn’t pass up the fillet of beef served with caramelized figs and a rich, dark jus, and Jeremy jumped at the chance to have a rack of lamb, which came with a rosemary jus and truffle-infused mashed potatoes. One bite of those potatoes sent us right back to Bologna and to the over-the-top meal we had in Papagallo on our first night there. That wasn’t surprising, I guess, seeing as the chef at One Paston Place is Italian, and when Jeremy asked about the source of the truffles, the waiter told him they came from a little village outside of Turin.
Our dinners finished, we moved on to a pre-dessert of strawberry sorbet doused in champagne, and then we got our “real” desserts: one super-dense chocolate and almond tart with a poached pear and vanilla ice cream for me, and one cheese plate for Jeremy. And then we got our post-dessert goodies, a plate of what I recently learned are called mignardises - essentially, a selection of fruity and cakey and chocolatey sweets to go with our coffees. Simply scrumptious.
Afterwards, much fuller of tummy and lighter of wallet, we walked back into town, stopping on the beach for a while to catch the last bit of “Master and Commander” before trundling home to collapse, exhausted, stuffed and utterly satisfied.
I love birthdays!