Noto review: Scotch eggs and doughnuts have never tasted so good
I have missed being in restaurants. But, whisper it, I have quite enjoyed the relaxed nature of eating out at home. You can dress how you like – ballgowns and flip flops being the outfit de jour at Turner Towers – and you can linger as long as you like over your meal. However, it also means that you miss out on the company of a team who really care about their offering. This was brought home to me when we ordered from Noto.
It’s a sister restaurant to the excellent Aizle, so we had an expectation of amazing food. But past experience has also taught me that we would have questions and queries about dishes. Get a passionate chef and you can talk for hours about their food. It’s not quite the same phoning up the next day going through a list of questions that have occurred to you mid-meal.
The Noto box (£65 for two – comes with a complimentary bottle of homemade cocktail) is good for up to three days and you can split it up and spread it out how you wish. Or you could have it all as a seven-course tasting menu for two. Gluttons that we are, there was no way it was lasting three whole days. Frankly, I’m amazed that it lasted three hours.
We began with the confit tomato and Parmesan olive oil bread with peperonata. A light and fluffy focaccia style bread, it was studded with black olives – giving it a beautifully sweet and clean taste. This had been cooked long and slow, allowing the natural sweet flavours of the peppers to blend together perfectly and shine.
We then had the Asian pork Scotch egg with tamarind ketchup. Now if, like me, you hear the words ‘Scotch egg’ and are immediately transported to the rain-lashed family picnics of your childhood, then you are in for an astounding treat.
Serving it straight from the box, the egg – astonishingly – was still soft. When cut in half, the vibrant yellow yolk spilled out. The sausage meat had delicate flavours that made it more char sui and the panko style breadcrumbs gave the whole a great crispy, crunchy texture. The addition of the tamarind ketchup was the light and subtle icing on this particular cake.
We then had the light salad of beetroot with curds, gremolata and bitter leaves. The beetroots – a strong red and slightly sweeter yellow – were perfection, the embodiment of letting quality ingredients speak for themselves.
For our main dish, we had miso braised chicken, soba noodles and condiments. This was the only dish that required us to do anything – although it came with idiot-proof instructions for reheating (just 30 mins in the oven) and reassembling on the plate. It was well done and the accompanying miso was a wonderfully light broth with spring onions and shiitake mushrooms.
We decided to have the Aura potatoes, cafe de Paris, green beans and quinoa as a side dish. Yes, pure gluttony to have alongside the chicken and noodles – but isn’t that what lockdown has been all about? The Aura is a waxy, knobbly, heritage potato whose nutty taste sat well with the green beans and the quinoa. Cafe de Paris – which you normally find served with steak or asparagus – is one of those reasons for restaurant cooking. The original recipe has a list of ingredients which would easily take up this whole piece. You could make it at home… This was wonderfully light and creamy and coated the potatoes perfectly.
Obviously, a serious break was called for. Which is one of the great benefits of eating at home. Not many restaurants would be happy for you to sit for about an hour between courses – no matter how busy you kept the bar. The first of our desserts was a Japanese ‘Tiramisu’ with dark chocolate and matcha tea. Now, tiramisu – I’m in. Dark chocolate – hand me a spoon. Matcha tea – not so much. To say I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement. The sweet notes of the rich dark chocolate were brought out by the earthiness of the tea. It was light and rich at the same time.
To finish we had vanilla sugar doughnuts with lemon curd. Exactly the same as the Scotch egg that we began with, this bore absolutely no resemblance to anything you’d pick up at your local bakers. It sounds ridiculous to say that a deep fried ball of dough was light – but this was. With a sharp, tangy lemon curd in the middle. I would have liked more of the lemon curd – but, then again, I would have liked more of everything.
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