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Christmas dinner at Kitchen at the Circle

Confidential finds a feast of seasonal flavours on Kitchen's Christmas menu

Published on November 11th 2010.


Christmas dinner at Kitchen at the Circle

We like to start Christmas early at Confidential. Mid-October, in fact. So with the leaves still on the trees and British Summer Time in full swing, we headed to the Circle Club's upstairs restaurant for a sneak preview of its festive menu.

At Kitchen, they've brought out the best of the season in their menu – the mulled pears, the candied fruits, the figs, the chesnuts. It's traditional but imaginative too.

As it happens, Kitchen has the kind of ambience that transports you to another time and place anyway. With its green leather Chesterfields, dark wooden furnishings and secluded snugs, it has the feel of a gentleman's club from when Edward VII was on the throne, though with modern, gothic touches. It was midday but the autumnal gloom was such that the candles were lit. Even before the food arrived we were feeling kind of Christmassy.

The Christmas menu features four options for each course, each one enlivened by festive flavours and ingredients that remind you exactly which season you're in. So the chicken liver parfait is Xmassed-up with port and fig chutney on the sourdough, and the glazed goats cheese sits alongside a very festive mulled wine poached pear with walnuts.

We had the smoked salmon blini topped by a poached quail egg – a delicate, tiny thing that made you wonder whether there was a team of elves in the kitchen, poaching miniature eggs in miniature saucepans. The pumpkin and pancetta soup was another dreamy dish – this is a fantastic combination of flavours, rich and wholesome. We'd never normally get excited about a starter of soup but this one was exceptional.

You have four choices for your main. Naturally, we had to try the big bird – a pancetta-wrapped turkey breast with a heart of pork and chestnut stuffing. The vivid flavours were continued in the honey roast carrots and parsnips, while a smooth, mellow gravy made from the turkey juices soaked into a velvety mash. It was festively soporific – the kind of meal you want to follow with a doze on the sofa rather than an afternoon in the office, but well worth the fuller-than-Santa's-sack feeling afterwards.

Lighter options include an oven roasted salmon and black olive crumble with cauliflower purée, and a wild mushroom lasagne with tarragon cream and parmesan.

We were in full feasting mode though, so we went for another full-bodied dish: the seared duck breast. A generous serving of pink duck sat atop richly flavoured braised red cabbage, with a tangy fig and damson jus on the side. It was typical of head chef Emma Saville's cuisine – bold tastes, uncommon ingredients and perfect balance. This is a Christmas dinner that makes you sit up and take notice.

The finale was one of the best desserts we've had in a while – for pure prettiness as well as the delicate Yuletide taste. Like the blinis earlier, the walnut and candied citrus fruit tart looked like it had been designed by fairies. Homemade shortcrust pastry, a golden filling of nuts and fruits, and a spoonful of vanilla ice cream topped with a raspberry. Lovely.

We accompanied it with the cheeseboard – taleggio, goats cheese, and a cheddar with a port and fig chutney on the side. Other options include Crimbo pud with boozy cream, and a chocolate torte with orange cream.

So many Christmas dinners feel like they've taken tradition too far into the realm of the dull and predictable – as if the chef regards them as an annual chore rather than a chance to be creative.

At Kitchen, they've brought out the best of the season in their menu – the mulled pears, the candied fruits, the figs, the chestnuts. It's traditional but imaginative too. This is the first year that Emma Saville has been holding the reigns at Christmas time, and she's done a fine job of it.

And what’s more, if you want to keep the party going you can just go downstairs and enjoy one of the legendary club nights, just ask the staff when you dine.

A three-course evening meal from Kitchen's Christmas menu, including a glass of bubbly, costs from £29.50. Lunch from the Christmas menu is £15.50 (two courses) or £19.50 (three courses). The Christmas menu is available from (27th November, 2010). For more information and to book, click here.

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