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Seven courses of extremely clever cooking

After a hard week grafting at the coalface of wordsmithery, the Confidentials team felt like they deserved a treat.

If it’s a treat you’re after, where better than Grafene? And what better way to indulge than with the 7 To Taste menu? Seven courses of extremely clever cooking - as we found out.

That said, Grafene isn’t one of those up-itself places where people whisper in hushed tones and worship at the altar of pretentious food. In fact, we had a blast. Serious thought obviously goes into the food, but what’s put in front of you is playful, even whimsical.

First up was the bread. Not one of the 7 To Taste courses, the rye bread with whipped corn butter and the sourdough bread with butter and fermented carrot were just beautiful bonuses. They show the effort that goes into every detail at Grafene and the fermented carrot wasn’t a pointless flourish; it really added a punch of flavour.

The brill was an exquisite piece of fish with a fine delicate crisp layer on top like batter from an angel’s chippy

Next up was the iced cucumber soup with celery and smoked salmon. Again, not one of the 7 To Taste courses, but one of Grafene’s generous surprises. A very welcome surprise in this sweltering summer. It was light and fresh with a sweetness that drew you in, exciting the palate for what was to come. There was also an aniseed-y back note adding yet another layer of flavour. You don’t come to Grafene for one-note cooking.

Two courses in and we were up to the first of our 7 To Taste courses: Ham hock, celeriac, cured egg, tarragon. Generous meaty chunks of ham hock were bound together with ribbons of celeriac whilst the cured egg yolk which sat atop gave an unctuous richness to the whole dish. There were discs of sharp green apple and crackling but what you think is: Spaghetti carbonara. A mind game but a delicious one.

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Ham hock, celeriac, cured egg, tarragon

The scallop, red pepper, dashi, avocado and tomato dish was a celebration of seafood and tomato. The Orkney scallop was gently caramelised and topped with chorizo powder, its white flesh quivering beneath like a red-head about to set forth onto a scorching beachfront. The different textures of tomato made it a great summer dish and the compressed cylinder of tomato may well become a benchmark of tomatoey-ness by which all other tomato tastes are measured. Everything was seasoned by the red pepper dashi and the salty sharpness of the parmesan crisp.

Brill, peas, caper, octopus, oyster was the Confidentials’ favourite dish. On the plate, it was a gorgeously presented restaurant dish but on the tongue it evoked memories of the finest seaside fish and chips and then some. The brill was an exquisite piece of fish with a fine delicate crisp layer on top like batter from an angel’s chippy whilst the caper and oyster emulsion was like a reminder of the poshest tartare sauce you’ve ever eaten and, alongside the peas, gave the vinegary flavour that every fish and chips dish needs. Happy, familiar yet also unexpected. This is what sets Grafene apart.

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Scallop, red pepper, dashi, avocado and tomato

The cep, consommé, truffle, shimeji was the opposite of a palate cleanser but it worked in the same way, bridging the flavour gap from the fish and chips flavour to pudding. For pudding, read Hereford beef, olive, kohlrabi, short rib. The full-bodied power of this paean to mushroom, with its aromatic umami scent, led seamlessly to the rich, glossy chocolatey notes of the beef dish.

The short rib was dense and almost gooey, like a decadent chocolate brownie but the dish was never heavy or cloying as the fermented kohlrabi cut through the richness whilst the creamy mussels also leavened the dish like mascarpone on a chocolate tart.

Another of Grafene’s surprises, this time of rhubarb, candied liquorice and ginger, and it was time for the actual desserts – fruity and fabulous, without the bull.

The strawberry, sponge, custard, verbena dish arrived wreathed in a lemony haze from the verbena granita. When the clouds parted, sweet strawberry shards rose dramatically from a mix of light and airy buttermilk sponge, sugared strawberries, fresh strawberries, strawberry jam, custard and pineberries. Like a plate of Wimbledon with all its skilful shots and artful play.

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Pineapple, pine, caramel, canelé was a picture. It had everything; height, drama, texture, flavour – the works. The traditional tropical flavours of pineapple and rum were totally rebooted with the freshness of pine ice-cream. It had everything needed to become a new classic.

After a plate of petits fours it was back to the office for more gruelling toil but we’ll always have the memories. Let’s hope some Grafene rip-off doesn’t spring up, taking our delicious foodie recollections of the 7 To Taste menu and turn them into the mundane. Because let’s face it, Grafene’s method of elevating your favourite food trips down memory lane and lifting them to another level is definitely a better way of going about it.

Grafene’s 7 To Taste menu is available to pre-order Monday – Friday, 6.30pm-8pm and Saturdays from 6pm-8pm.

It costs £70pp for seven courses and also includes homemade bread and some extra surprises. For a limited time get the 7 to taste with a bottle of prosecco through the Man Con App.

See the 7 To Taste menu

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Pineapple, pine, caramel, canelé