177 Hoxton Street
Tel: 0871 223 7275
Date of Last Visit: Saturday, October 7 2006
The Victims: Bryan, Stacey, John
The Damage: 55 gbp per person, and worth every penny
Bryan, 4:27 p.m.: Up for an interesting culinary experience tonight?
Me, 4:52 p.m.: Am feeling lame and tired. What did you have in mind?
Bryan, 4:55 p.m.: There is a new restaurant in Hoxton called Bacchus that we are going to try.
Thus began our adventure. I did a couple of Googles on Bacchus and learned that it used to be a boozer, and that now it’s offering sous-vide cuisine. If you, like me, are not familiar with this concept, let me explain with the help of our friends at Wikipedia.
Sous-vide (pronounced sue veed, French for "under vacuum"; also called cryopacking or cuisine en papillote sous vide) is a method of cooking that is intended to maintain the integrity of ingredients by heating them for an extended period of time at relatively low temperatures. Food is cooked, in some cases for well over 24 hours, in airtight plastic bags placed in hot water that is well below boiling point (approximately 60°C or 140°F).
When I was a kid, my mom swore by Seal-a-Meal. Our fridge and freezer were full of these bags of food. They came in handy because my mother would often cook enough lasagna to last for two weeks. In short, as soon as I read about sous vide, I was a believer. My mother was so ahead of her time!
As it turns out, Bryan heard about Bacchus from Dos Hermanos, they of London food blogging fame. Being the adventurous sort that Bryan is, he made a bee-line for a booking and I was kind enough to be invited along.
The Door: Oh my God, I couldn’t find the door in. I mean, it looked like the door, but then again, it didn’t. There was no handle or anything that I could see. I felt totally embarrassed until Bryan and Stacey and John arrived and did the exact same thing–but they even walked all the way around the outside of the restaurant. That was funny.
The Service: I arrived first and Aloisius sat me down and brought me a glass of Proseco, and then happily informed me that the glass was on the house because it was their absoltue last one. Who doesn’t love something like this? (Why don’t all restaurants make it a happy surprise that their guests’ first drinks are complimentary? What a positive way to start the night.)
The Drinks: Bryan took control of the wine list and took Aloisius’ suggested of the Spanish Gewurztraminer. It was very green and fresh. I liked it. Then again, I’ve rarely met a wine I didn’t like. Bacchus gets HUGE points for its wine list that actually includes descriptions! I am so tired of staring at a wine list divided by country and/or color and not knowing anything past that. Tasting notes are key.
The Bread: I thought the butter was great, but I felt the bread was a little average. Maybe it was the size of the portion? Or the basic-ness of it? It was probably on purpose to put the highlight on the food, but I was starving and could have used a more interesting, bigger slice.
The Starters: We all ordered something different. I would be lying if I could tell you what they all were. I had linguine and squid ink–I think–and it was lovely and delicate. There was a moment of panic as I passed my plate around the table and everyone helped themselves! I am not good at sharing. I was very jealous of John’s pile of tuna. It was delicious.
The Mains: I went for the pork and it was the best pork I’ve ever had. It was lovely and pink and moist. I wish I could remember everything it came with, but I was so focused on the deliciousness of the pork, all other details have faded away (helped, perhaps, by our one bottle of Spanish Gewurztraminer and our other bottle of rose Sancerre). I was jealous of Bryan’s steak with mustard. I do love mustard. John had the cod and Stacey the halibut. Again, plates were passed around and I didn’t taste a bit I didn’t enjoy.
The Service: I need to come back to the service. Aloisius was really wonderful and personable. He brought out the chef–Nuno–to meet us. Nuno is Portguese but has spent a lot of time in the U.S. in San Fran and New York. Bryan and Nuno traded small world stories, and Nuno told us about how he made it over to London. Previously, he’s worked with Jean Georges Vongerichten. The staff all pretty much introduced themselves–Peter, one of the directors, Jay (sp?) the host, and our American server. (Whose name I forget! Apologies.) They were eager to please and I can only hope that this level of personal attention doesn’t get lost or become old for them at any point.
The Dessert: Again, we all ordered something different. I’m on a polenta kick at the moment, so it was polenta cake for me. Stacey had CHEESE ice cream, which was fascinating. I can’t be sure I liked it, but it was intriguing for sure. All of this was accompanied by a French Tokay. Lovely.
Decor: Scandinavian. You know I’m a sucker for that. Also, I felt like I was the first person to ever use the ladies’ room. And I loved the prints by Klaus Haapaniemi. I wasn’t a huge fan of the brightness of the lights–I think they could be a little more mysterious and romantic with the lighting. But there are worse things.
The Verdict: Go and go again and again.