I don't usually go for the menu gastronomique, or tasting menu.  So

many courses, so many calories and often a different wine served

with each dish.  By the end of such a meal it can feel like being

blindfolded and slapped across the cheek with a wet fish - and then

being asked to identify it.  After so much food and drink, I'm not

sure how diners can even identify their own face in the mirror. 

Certainly, after spending an evening at Orrery last week I came out

convinced I was with my own twin sister.  However, since there were

two of us came, it was nice to have company in the cab home. 

Though I seem to have paid for both of us.


Yes, I've changed my hair colour again - this time to a Bride of

Dracula shade of knife-handle black - and it does get confusing.  I

haven't quite got used to it myself.  I've had so many different

shades this year that I'm sure my neighbours think I'm in a witness

protection programme.  Every time I look in the mirror I think I'm

starring in a low-budget soap opera where an actress wears a black

wig and plays her long-lost sibling, exhumed from the grave.


So there we were, myself, (the evil Goth sister joined us later) and a

couple of friends pigging out on the last of the season's truffles at the

recently Michelin starred Orrery in trendy Marylebone High Street. 

It  is a Conran restaurant, but apart from Bibendum across

town in the Michelin building on Brompton Cross, this is the only one

with food of real character, the others are all impostors wearing wigs. 


We went at the start of Lent, a time of abstinence and good

intentions.   I've stopped smoking (twelve days and counting),

rejoined the gym (though having a gnat sized Gerry Halliwell on the

bike next to you does not make you feel good about your thighs) and

vowed to forgo alcohol.   So what the hell am I doing snuffling my

way through the truffle menu and enjoying the sommelier's selection

of accompanying wine by the glass?  Oh well, March is the month one

must kiss black truffles a long good-bye until the more expensive

and glamorous white variety appear towards the cold end of October. 


First came the amuse bouche - a delicious truffled ballotine of foie

gras with Sauterne jelly - just the tiniest sliver and served with its

very own glass of non vintage fizz,  This was followed by a delicate

veloute of Jerusalem artichoke, the gourmet gift that keeps on giving

-  sprinkled with a few confetti flakes of Perigourd truffles.  The

third course was sea scallops 'black tie' - a scallops layered with

black truffle and served in a little pastry jacket, with a truffled

sauce.  A lemon thyme granite arrived next as a palate cleanser and

this was followed by black leg chicken, a layer of truffle inserted

under the roasted chicken skin and a large ravioli stuffed with

chicken, foie gras and yet more truffle.


Despite the abundance of shaved truffle throughout the meal, the

most odiferous dish was the truffle oil sprinkled over the walnut

salad served with a wedge of triple cream cheese with a sweet

quince paste.  And if this isn't wasn't enough the final dish was

truffle and honey ice cream on a bed of diced strawberries, a strange

confusion of creamy, earthy sweetness, though the first two

unsuspecting mouthfuls, heavily laced with truffle morsels, tasted a

little like eating dirt, which was not as unpleasant as you light

imagine.  Interesting, I would say, and strangely compulsive.  Like

your first pint of Guinness.  Or men who don't shave.


Now, I know, I sped through this feast faster than a trucker in Drive-

thru MacDonald’s, but if I had to take as long to describe it as the

meal did, I would be back next Saturday with the sequel. Portions

are perfectly judged - neither to much nor too little, but the space

between courses seemed lengthier than first time labour - though

thankfully significantly less painful thanks to the wine.  Each glass

we were offered by the sommelier, complete with short explanation,

came from the same region as the truffles and due to the harmonious

nature of the menu, the individuality and character of the different

wines were evident.


Our own characters, in the meantime, became increasingly blurred . 

Of course you are supposed to drink the wine which under

normal circumstances would probably pass the interval between

courses in a more congenial fashion than yawning noisily until tears

run down your cheeks leaving tracts in your soin de mort foundation,

but being Lenten-minded, we merely sipped.  The table was littered

with a profusion of glasses, each containing a varying amount of

different coloured liquid, like a novelty orchestra for contestants on

The Generation Game.  Nevertheless, even with sips, and no

distracting cigarettes, there is a lot to get through.


For those with restraint, the Connaught also has a truffle menu

- five courses with coffee for £75, but each dish can be ordered

individually, leaving you feeling righteous yet replete, and more