CORE by Clare Smyth is a medium sized restaurant that has been open since last August (about 9 months). The casual but elegant feel of the place is enhanced by well spaced tables, some of which sit on carpet rounds that help absorb sound. In addition the ceiling is in different heights with more sound absorbing material and thus conversation is easy. The bare wood tables were set with lovely cloth napkins decorated with a tiny bouquet of flowers. There were two larger round booth seats on one wall but most of the tables have their own comfortable chairs. Another wall had some windows to the street, so in the daytime there was lots of natural light. You enter into the well stocked bar area where there is more seating and walk by the glass walled kitchen on the way to the dining room. No music was in the background but some art was on the walls as well as some bookcases with interesting objects and books.
The guests were a mix of ages and mostly in casual dress at lunch. There were tons of service people that were friendly and attentive. The menu offered 3 different tasting menu options- 3 courses where you chose one of 4 choices, 5 course set menu or 8 course set – all with some assorted amuse bouche, an optional cheese course and optional wine pairings. We chose the longest tasting and ordered our own wine along with a cocktail to start. Portion control was good as was the pace of the meal.
The amuse bouche included pea and mint gougeres; jellied eel, toasted seaweed and malt vinegar; crispy smoked duck wing, burnt orange and spices; and foie gras parfait and madeira. They were all excellent. The gougere was really minty and yummy, filled with pea essence, the eel was smokey and just sprayed with malt vinegar – quite nice, the duck wing was really crispy and unbelievably good with just a hint of sweetness, the parfait was foie gras mousse in a crisp shell and wonderful. They thoughtfully brought wet handtowels for you to use before or after eating or both.
Bread was a malted sourdough variety made in house served with salted Normandy butter. The bread had a good crust with a moist, dense interior and the butter was wonderful.
Isle of Mull scallop tartar was with a sea vegetable consommé. The broth was herby and buttery and the raw scallop was really moist. It was the time of year when scallops contain more water and they took full advantage of this feature. It was a nicely seasoned dish so that it didn’t overwhelm the taste of the scallop.
‘Potato and roe’, dulse beurre blanc, herring and trout roe was a throwback to Chef Smyth who grew up around the potato industry. The potato cooked in seaweed was surrounded by a sauce of seaweed and butter at the table. The potato was firm but correctly soft in the interior. This is a signature dish of the chef and you could taste why. The sauce was outstanding and amazing. This wasn’t ‘just a potato’ anymore. Delicious.
Skate was with Morecambe bay shrimps, Swiss chard and brown butter. The Cornish skate was poached then fried in a brown butter sauce with the little shrimp on top. Another amazing sauce highlighted the perfectly cooked fish and all was topped with a crispy, lacey garnish. It was a wonderful combination of flavors that lingered deliciously in your mouth.
‘Lamb carrot’ was braised lamb with sheep’s milk yoghurt. The really fresh carrot was brushed with lamb fat while cooking and then topped with crispy bits of lamb meat. Surrounded by a gelatinous sauce the carrot really picked up the flavor of lamb. It was served with a warm soft roll that also was brushed with savory flavors. This was a lip licking excellent dish.
Scottish venison with smoked bacon, pearl barley and whisky was served in 2 pieces all surrounded by whisky and venison drippings sauce. One piece was roasted rare tenderloin and the other was more like haggis as it was made with smoked organ meat and topped with cabbage. Venison is a fairly dry meat and unfortunately there was nothing they could do to change that but the flavors were good however this course didn’t measure up to the previous ones.
The first dessert was ‘Core apple.’ It was caramelized apple with apple mousse and pieces inside. It was very light and strongly tasted of apple. It was a fairly mild dish with a hint of tartness.
Wild strawberry, meringue and lemon verbena was a work of art. The verbena was from the south of France and strongly flavored that almost took over the strawberry flavor. The crispy meringue added a nice touch of texture. The strawberry sorbet inside of the creation was spiked with some tapioca balls that nicely balanced the tiny seedy berries.
Warm chocolate tart had a good filling but the crust would have benefitted from more butter. It was served with ‘Sauternes and Banyuls’ which were jellies made from sauternes that tasted just like a nice glass of that wonderful wine. The Banyuls tasted more medicinal and alcoholic and was not sweet. Fun and different endings for a wonderful meal.