The Muset, Clifton: Review (November 2012)
I described a recent meal at Clifton’s The Muset on Twitter and Facebook as “the best meal I’ve had in a LONG time”. There is no word of a lie in this statement – it was a rare evening where food, drink, service and atmosphere combined seamlessly to provide the kind of dining experience that I’d more than happily enjoy on a regular basis.
It is no wonder that the venue has made the short list for the upcoming Food Magazine Readers’ Awards – in two categories, in fact. The Muset is up for Best Restaurant, and head chef Jethro Lawrence is aiming to take the Best Chef award – both well-deserved.
We were there as guests of The Muset, and had the opportunity to enjoy a range of dishes from their current menu.
An espresso cup of bouillabaisse – a rich, thick soup made from a blend of Cornish fish, was a wonderfully warming introduction to Jethro’s talent on a cold night, and provided me with a dose of nostalgia thanks to my Francophile father. Served with a deep fried quail’s egg, the presentation was merely a hint of what was still to come.
A rich, meaty slab of ham hock terrine enjoyed a great contrast of flavours and textures with cubes of a subtly flavoured elderflower jelly and crispy chunks of vinegary beer-pickled shallot.
A pair of Cornish scallops, wrapped in Parma ham and served on a cauliflower purée showed just how good the simplest of dishes can be: we were told that we weren’t the only diners to have raved about the purée, and we were pleased to see it making a further appearance in later dishes too.
The monkfish dish that followed was undoubtably my highlight of the evening. A ras el hanout crust added spice that worked well with the meatiness of the fish, and a heat that was cooled slightly by the slight sourness of the yoghurt that also featured on the plate. Lentils, king prawns, cauliflower purée and small cauliflower florets added an intriguing combination of textures and flavours, and presentation-wise…well, it was one of the most beautiful fish dishes that I’ve seen in a while.
Our beef fillet dish was lovely and pink and perfectly seasoned, and served with more of that fantastic cauliflower purée, baby carrots and a watercress purée. The veal shank ravioli with which it was accompanied contained meat which was amazingly rich and melted in the mouth – our one grudging criticism being that the pasta was a little too thick and chewy at the base.
It amazes me when great restaurants opt for an uninspired cheese selection…but The Muset is not one of these. Our marbled cheese board featured a sliver of each of the seven varieties available to customers, including the fantastic Gorwydd Caerphilly and a pungent Celtic Gold with a cider rind wash, my favourite of the lot.
Onto dessert…a chocolate and raspberry-based dish which, despite being incredibly full, we couldn’t help but demolish. A light and airy chocolate mousse, a quenelle of raspberry sorbet, a seriously concentrated raspberry purée, small cubes of raspberry jelly and a mound of tangy sherbet vied for our attention, alongside fresh raspberries and a chocolate “soil”. It certainly tasted as good as it looked…my only bugbear (not just here, but at other places too) being that sorbet is virtually impossible to eat from a slate once it has melted!
Manager Jonathan and the waitress who served our food were attentive and friendly throughout, and if you do pay The Muset a visit, I highly advise asking Jonathan for his wine recommendations with each course. The Muset’s cellar, on display to the public, is incredibly well-stocked, with a page of more accessible wines available by the glass, carafe or bottle, and the rest of the wine list starting at around the £20 mark and culminating in a bottle of red priced at over £200. The wine highlight for me was the 2003 Aleatico de Puglia (£6.90 for 70ml, £44 for a 50cl bottle) that accompanied our dessert – a sticky, medium sweet red that left us hunting it down online over the weekend.
When I say this was the best meal I’ve had in a long time, I really wasn’t lying. While many of the dishes have a price tag to match the quality (expect to pay around £20 for a main course), the restaurant also has a very reasonably priced midweek offer of three courses for £22 from a set menu, and a great £10 lunch/early bird deal, which includes a glass of wine. They also have regular offers available via their Facebook page, meaning that The Muset is equally enjoyable as a venue for a special occasion or for a fantastic midweek meal. Highly recommended.
Please note: this meal was received free of charge, but in no way impacted on our opinion. We were not obliged to write a positive review, and the venue did not see this review before it was put up on the site.