'We tried a £99 six-course Valentine's menu featuring The Ex and Catfish' - Hithe + Seek review
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A 'Catfish' doesn't sound like a good start to a date and 'The Ex' doesn't sound like a promising end, but not everything's as it seems at a Thames-side venue this February.
While the entrance to The Westin sits amidst the urban engine-roar of Upper Thames Street, inside you find a welcoming and plush, if corporate, city hotel. And on the third floor is a real gem of a bar, with a view across the river to Shakespeare's Globe and the Tate Modern.
That bar is named Hithe + Seek and, marking 'Valentine's month', head chef Fabio De Paolisit has partnered with Dalston Wine Club founder Hannah Crosbie to create a menu with a 'love' (or at least 'love-adjacent') theme.
The six-course, wine-pairing collaboration boasts "aphrodisiac-imbued dishes" with names such as the Booty Call and My-Type-On-Paper.
We were shown to our seats, side-by-side and looking over the (admittedly rainy) river by Anuj, our very attentive server, who talked us through the thinking behind the menu.
The six dishes are served on single plates, to be shared - though you get individual wine glasses. In case six glasses of wine is not enough, the evening begins with a Dalston Clover Club cocktail - Absolut Vodka, raspberry purée, lime and Balfour sparkling wine - nice and full, with a tempered vodka taste, and not too sweet.
1. The Catfish
Torched king oyster scallops, oyster leaf, parsnip purée with Taittinger, ‘Nocturne Sec’
The Catfish is so called because its nature is other than how it looks. In this case, we have mushrooms that look like scallops (rather than a seedy app-lurker who looks like a real catch).
It really works. The meaty mushroom creates a great flavcom with the parsnips, and the oyster leaf tops it off with that shellfish flavour - all served with Champagne.
2. The Anniversary
Sea bass carpaccio, compressed tomato, basil crumble, Champagne granita with a Balfour Skye’s Chardonnay
The theme this time is more route one, with the granita Champagne representing an anniversary celebration.
The sorbet/crumble/carpaccio combo is unusual, but what brings it together is the excellent English Chardonnay (from Kent), which is a revelation.
3. The My-Type-On-Paper
Langoustine & smoked cheese risotto, citrus bisque foam with Vavasour, Pinot Gris
Named for its apparent "perfection", it's probably actually mislabelled because the dish is near perfection: smoky, prawny, warming, delicious.
4. The Situationship
Pork tenderloin, cardamom sweet potato mash, blueberry jus, chicharron with M. Chapoutier, Gigondas
In case you don't know, a situationship is "a relationship that is not considered to be formal or established".
This translates to the dinner table in the form of two pieces of tenderloin separated by mash - "together but apart", in other words.
It's another great, wholesome combination and wonderfully paired with the French red.
5. The Booty Call
Lamb shish, mint tzatziki, padron pepper with COS, Frappato
The lamb is tasty but feels perhaps unnecessary after the risotto and the pork. But that’s the point - it’s a late-night kebab of booty call.
6. The Ex
Chilli mango mousse, dark chocolate sphere, edible rose petals with Ruffino's Serelle Vin Santo del Chianti
Strangely, the evening ends with a dessert which is all about anger. Rose petals and mousse can be spied inside a sphere which must be broken open (our break-in left chocolate shrapnel on the floor).
But the anger subsides (as you return to your ex?), leaving a very nice mix of dark chocolate and fruit, accompanied by the excellent Tuscan dessert wine.
Hithe + Seek
For all the novelty of the menu theme, Hithe + Seek x Hannah Crosbie delivers a delightful evening in a comfortable room, with a low-key DJ (tonight featuring The Spinners' I’ll Be Around, perhaps in tribute to the recently passed Henry Fambrough).
The dishes and wine choices are both creative and satisfying, and I'll watch with interest for future projects.
The six-course tasting menu is priced at £99 per person, which includes a cocktail, six plates with five matching wines and one dessert wine. The menu will run alongside Hithe + Seek’s usual menu from February 8 to March 2.
Visit the Hithe + Seek website for reservations and Hithe + Seek x Hannah Crosbie supper club tickets.
Hithe + Seek is at 60 Upper Thames Street, London, EC4V 3AD.