When it comes to champagne my will is weak. I may have started this restaurant blog with ideals and a sound moral compass, but these have withered occasionally. I’m not proud of it, though I am also not stupid. When I receive an invitation to an evening hosted by Laurent Perrier at an award winning Indian restaurant, of course I was going to accept it: It’s curry and fizz, two of my favourite things in the world.
The restaurant in question is Five Rivers, a smart space not far from Walsall town centre, where wooden beams arch across the vaulted ceiling and elbows and arses are greeted by thick linen and deep, plush seating alike. We start the meal with a sweet potato cake, heavy on chilli and cumin, with the spicing offset by the sweet funk of fig. What I like most is the disregard for the etiquette that too often exists in Indian restaurants at the higher end, where smart presentation often means the spicing is turned down. I want heat; lots of it. I get it here and the dish is all the better for it.
If the opening course nodded politely at classic Indian street food, the next course was pure theatre. Warm lobster broth was poured tableside into a bowl containing morsels of the crustacean and a tiny dice of carrot and courgette. Plumes of dry ice smoke encompass the table, with wows intermittently interrupted by people looking for their mobile phones. I like it, less so because of the drama and more because of the flavour, rich with more heat and cut through with lemon acidity.
Monkfish, charred with from the extreme tandoor heat, is cooked for a few seconds longer than I prefer. A sweet puree of mango the natural foil to the fish. Also from the tandoor came duck, boldly flavoured with garlic and ginger. It was a stellar piece of cooking, the meat dense and vibrant with more of the chilli kick. A lemon and lime sorbet appears after this point, but like I care.
By now the fizzy stuff had kicked in and with it the rest of the evening became a glorious blur. I just about remember a chicken dish, stuffed with spinach and topped with a sauce that I wished there were more of. And there were desserts, which I can be sure of because they were on my camera and suit jacket. I recall little of a mango sundae type thingy and a little more of a deep fried ice cream that whacked of cinnamon. I think I recall being pleased with them, which says a lot, as Indian desserts are too often all sugar and no substance.
And with that there was more champagne (of course there was) and a taxi home to sleep off a serious amount of booze. Its hard to properly score a restaurant when the experience is far from the norm, but I woke up the following day telling everyone just how good the food was. Maybe the fizz and the jubilant atmosphere swayed it, but more than likely not. Either way I’ll be heading back to Walsall under my own steam to find out. Five Rivers is admirable for having lofty ambitions away from the big cities and for executing it with aplomb. I, for one, had a great time in their company.
The meal at Five Rivers was part of a celebration dinner with Laurent Perrier for which there was no charge. Opinions, hazy memories and hangovers all remain my own