Frothy at the Mouth
Onions, when you chop them, make you cry. This is, apparently, down to the chemical irritant known as syn-propanethial-S-oxide. It stimulates the eyes’ tear glands. The internet is full of good advice on how to avoid this: – Cut onion under running water. Yeah right, you won’t cry from the onion fumes but you will from the cut to your finger after the knife pings off the slippery onion! – Use a very sharp knife so you cut rather than crush, thereby releasing less of the bitey chemical. Ditto, as above. – stand by a draught to blow the fumes away. Ergo, onion tears avoided in favour of wind burn tears! For goodness sake, you’re going to cry anyway, so (wo)man up and just get on with it!
There is one onion though, which won’t make your eyes water, and that’s The White Onion in Wimbledon Village. When my lovely daughter-in-law, our beautiful and clever legal eagle, invited me to a girly dinner à deux there, I jumped at the chance.
The restaurant is right in the heart of the village, just a stone’s throw from all the wonderful boutiques and shops, perfect for a little meander beforehand. Glancing through the windows from the outside, it already looks inviting with its candle-lit brasserie style tables, well laid out with proper white linen napkins and sparkling glassware but still with a casual easy neighbourhood vibe. Why exactly it’s called The White Onion, I can’t quite fathom. Perhaps it’s because aside from berets, moustaches and baguettes, we associate strings of onions and garlic with the stereotypical French image. And Gallic it certainly is, sporting a long wine list, a short but complex menu and staff who charmingly but unobtrusively go out of their way to make you feel welcome.
Mildly incongruously, despite the lack of starched white table cloths which would give the restaurant more elegant gravitas, there’s a propensity for unnecessarily elaborate dishes featuring ‘froth’ of some kind or another. Maybe it’s meant to offer a nod to trendy molecular gastrononomy or maybe it’s just living up to the idea of sophistication in classic French cuisine, I don’t know. Too insubstantial and foamy to taste of much, I never quite get its purpose on the plate other than complicating matters.
Still, froth or no froth, we order a shared starter of Cured Stonebass, Buckwheat Blinis, Pickled Cucumber, Bombay Sapphire and Horseradish Cream followed by Oven Baked Cornish Cod, Wild Garlic Leaves, Olive Oil Mash, Crispy Mussels and the apparently obligatory Mussel Froth for the d-i-l and Jerusalem Artichoke Ravioli, Root Winter Vegetables, Parmesan and more Froth, this time of the Truffle persuasion, for me, with an additional portion of crispy Deep Fried Broccoli Florets.
First though, we are served a choice of delicious bread. On offer are a selection of Gruyere cheese, olive or chorizo flavoured slices or Focaccia stuffed with sun dried tomatoes. A pat of butter to complement it is on the table. As usual, it goes down far too well and we have to employ some serious self-control not to spoil our appetites with more.
The starter is cooly fresh flavoured, the combination of soft blinis, the slight sourness of the pickled cucumber, the mellowed bite of the horseradish cream and the marine taste of the fish contrasting very nicely. Quite where the Bombay Sapphire comes into it all, I’m not sure, but I imagine it adds a touch of subtle lemony aniseed taste to the whole.
The main courses are very palatable too, despite their overly busy ingredients. My two large squares of filled pasta are perfect, though the crispy arrangements on top and the truffle froth, while by no means offensive, add little of merit. The ravioli, I think, would be absolutely fine just by itself, or if anything, with a touch of truffle oil and black pepper for a more defined punch. The d-i-l’s cod is excellent and, though generally I’m not so keen on deep fried food, in this instance the crisped up mussels make a very pleasing change. Once again, the different consistencies really give it some decent clout but instead of the mussel froth, I’d prefer a little Hollandaise, perhaps, or something with a stronger personality. As for the crunchy little broccoli pellets, they may not look as appetizing or be as healthy as the steamed version, but they are interestingly different to the run of the mill.
For dessert we share a Quince Tarte Tatin with Amaretto ice cream. Very pretty looking and just that little bit more juicy and tart than the more conventional apple, it ticks all the boxes.
The final bill, which includes service charge, two glasses of house wine and two of Ginger Fizz, comes to £74.93. Not bad at all for such a thoroughly enjoyable meal! True, it may be just ever so slightly harbouring frothy suburban pretensions but ultimately, what’s not to like?!
The White Onion, sister restaurant to The French Table in Surbiton, achieves consistently high ratings from diners on all the review websites. I am not remotely surprised, it offers a cosy ambience, attentive service, delectable food and good value. Wipe your tears, throw away your kitchen knife and head to Wimbledon!
What I wore
Spring pastels: Pale cream skinny jeans by Paige, an oversized mint coloured cashmere V neck jumper by Marks and Spencer, a silk scarf with pastel butterfly design from Accessorize, ancient pale pink high heeled suede lace up ankle boots byManolo Blahnik and a pale pink coat by Zara with Etoupe Hermes Birkin bag customised by artist Boyarde Messenger.
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I look forward to sharing more food adventures with you!
Kia aka Fizz of Life