It’s fair to say that we’re still a bit nervous about going to restaurants since restrictions were lifted. Will we feel safe enough, so we can relax and have a nice evening? The first two places we’ve been too were fine and we had no real doubt that No 4 would also be fine. I’d read their Covid-secure page on the website and felt reassured. And, if any more was needed, then when it came to making a reservation, it was clear how seriously they are taking things. Can I have a table at 7.30, please? No, I can’t. I can have one at 7.20 or 7.40, as they are spacing out arrivals so folk aren’t crowded at the entrance. And, when we got to the restaurant, there were a few changes. Sanitiser at the entrance, tables spaced out a bit, staff wearing visors (better for facial contact than masks), single use menus. But, in essence, having dinner at the new No 4 is the same as having dinner at the old No 4. Usual relaxed, friendly service. Usual lovely food.
One of us started with their take on mushrooms on toast. It’s a regular menu item and rightly so. A woodland mix on toasted brioche, with the sharpness of red onion, the creaminess of mascarpone and the saltiness of Gran Moravia cheese. That was followed by an onion and mustard tart. Lovely crisp pastry and rich filling. Accompaniments are straightforward, and none the worse for that – mini hash browns and some wilted greens.
For the other one of us, there were potato cakes to start, a bit crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside. They are topped with crumbled Roquefort, the sweet earthiness of beetroot and, for a texture contrast, a crunch from walnuts. Calves liver was the main course – I think there’s always a version of this dish on the menu. And it is a comforting little belter of a plate. A generous amount of liver, cooked lightly so it’s still pink. Good mashed potato and a red wine sauce. Classic accompaniments of crisp bacon and onion rings. And a little wilted spinach. It’s a bit of a cliché – but this really is food you want to eat.
Only one of us wanted dessert. That’ll be the brioche summer pudding trifle. Looked like a summer pudding, tasted like a summer pudding. What’s not to like.
It’s been a tough time for restaurants and it’s going to continue to be tough. We need good restaurants, just as they need good customers, so it won’t be too long before we’re back.