Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Cigalon

A & C both currently work at the western edge of the City of London, which means that from time to time we can grab a casual lunch out together (we did this at the awesome Pie Minister not too long ago), or sometimes we push the boat out and go for a nice weekday dinner. Last week, we checked out the lovely Cigalon; just around the corner from our respective offices, it presented a good opportunity for a bit of pampering after a hard day's work. A is a not-so-closet Francophile (having lived and worked there for a while) and was particularly keen to get involved working his way through a French menu. C on the other hand, was a little worried that French food was too 'fussy' for her and needed some convincing, so we set out to see if that could be done.

As a brief aside, we popped down to Cigalon after booking through Lime and Tonic. A relatively new website which is well worth checking out, it gives its users access to hand-picked experiences in their local cities. Experiences include culinary experiences, private social events, weekend getaways and the odd adrenalin-junkie activity too. Think of the site like a Groupon, but with almost every listing being something that you'd actually be interested in, and you get the idea.  

C's cannelloni, with garlic froth

Cigalon is a lovely Provençal restaurant housed in a former auction house on Chancery Lane, tucked around the back of the Royal Courts of Justice. The surroundings are very tasteful, with high ceilings, light decor, scallop shaped booths, leafy green plants and lots of mirrors creating a feeling of brightness and space. Happily, good things did not stop with the decor, as the meal turned out to be excellent as well.

One of the nice things about the place is the attention to detail, the presentation of the bread and the olive tapenade served up as a kind of 'amuse gueule'. C doesn't like olives, which is just as well, since A tore his way though the little dish of tapenade in less than minutes: a testament to how good it was.


Bread and olives


A and C turned to the set menu, but picked a variety of different things. A started with a Jerusalem artichoke velouté (essentially a frothy soup), which was excellent: the flavour of the artichokes came through beautifully and the consistency was wonderfully light. C went for the salsify barigoule salad with a poached egg. This is a pretty ambitious take on a south French classic (usually made with artichokes and traditionally with a special type of mushoom as well - though these are often left out these days) and C was pleased to say it came up trumps, though she was slightly bemused as to why the egg turned up hard boiled rather than poached.

The mains were equally good and pretty inventive, too. A's silver mullet with lentil and beetroot ragôut was perfectly cooked and jam-packed with flavour. While the fish was excellent, delicately cooked with a wonderfully crispy skin, it was the ragôut that stole the show for A: the earthy flavours of the lentils and the beets complemented each other wonderfully and stood in real contrast to the fish. C's canneloni looked excellent but, due to the overwhelming presence of chard (something A cannot stand), he can only pass on C's comments - which were pretty positive. C described what she had as well balanced, with the light creaminess of the sauce temperting the strong flavour of the chard.

C's salsify barigoule salad

Both A and C opted for the lemon crème brûlée. C commented to A that this was not lemony enough, but this needs to be taken in context - she's the sort of person who sucks lemons for fun. A is less extreme, and found the balance of sweet and sour to be absolutely on the mark. The top was also wonderfully crisp, cracking audibly upon first contact with the spoon, just as crème brûlée ought to.


The menu

If we have onc criticism, it would be the after dinner tea and coffee. C's tea came out almost laughably weak and A's coffee was not the best. Sadly, both remained unfinished on the table. However, by the end of the evening, C was convinced that - fussy though it is - French food is worth a bash after all. As for Cigalon, with the exception of the coffee, the restaurant is very good indeed: the food is French themed without being overly fancy, and inventive without being weird. In short, it was a great introduction to French food for C, and A thoroughly enjoyed a rare posh meal out on a school night.

The crème brûlée

Featured Content: But for the tea, coffee and service charge, A and C did not pay for the meal at Cigalon. A and C enjoyed the meal at Cigalon courtesy of Lime and Tonic and did not accept additional payment for this post.

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