Last night I ended up having dinner at the Carlton Club (that’s the Conservative Party club in London). I’d heard plenty of good things about the food at this Tory haven and I was quite excited when I got my hands on the menu.
Two things stuck out immediately on the mains: lobster with scallops and baked calves’ sweetbreads. The choice was tough- expensive yummy lobster or intriguing sweetbreads. After 20 minutes of umming and erring I decided to splash out and go for the lobster. Then they told me it was off. Typical .
My starter was a salad of shaved truffles with globe artichokes and a crispy round gruyere thing which I couldn’t identify. I was glad I tried it for the truffles but it did remind me of why I usually avoid salads for dinner. I never really feel satisfied by them.
The main course was much more interesting. The calf sweetbread (or pancreas to those who don’t like to mince their words) was huge. I always thought it was a small organ. It looked just like this.
I was a bit scared to try it at first. It was a bit hard to get the idea of a pancreas out of my mind. I was even more bothered by the fact I couldn’t remember what a pancreas actually did.
Eventually I got stuck in. It actually had quite a pleasant flavour. I can see where the term sweetbread came from. It is slightly sweet and there is something breadlike about it’s look and texture. Like liver, it’s not something you’d want to shovel into your mouth in big chunks. The texture is odd and the best way to eat it is in small pieces balanced with other textures and flavours. The Carlton chefs certainly knew what they were doing with it. The salad of parsley and capers were a very good accompaniment.
The highlight of the evening had to be the dessert. I don’t usually have dessert at restaurants, at least not one to myself, but I spotted another thing I’d been wanting to try. There was a vanilla sponge pudding served with gooseberries. I’d never had these fruits before and I thought this was a golden opportunity. They were very good. I’m not sure I’d enjoy them on their own but they were lovely when balanced by the sweetness of the sponge and the creamy vanilla ice cream.
All in all, this dinner was a good but expensive experience. The service did freak me out a bit. It was perfectly efficient but a little too formal for my liking. However, I’m sure it was perfect for the old Tory chaps around the room. The food was very good but I felt the menu lacked originality. I’m sure this is deliberate as the majority of the Club’s customers will be after good quality traditional food. It certainly delivers that faultlessly. I suppose it’s just not my thing.