I am in love. And the object of my desire is dinner at Rebekah’s, a bounty of salmon, pasta fired up with fortified spirits, lamb, duck and decadent desserts. The food is divine. We feast, we revel, we delight; seated in a cheerful room before a roaring fire, the RR motif emblazoned on all the linen ware in this charming House of Character.
From a list of attractive starters we have selected the pasta with sweetbreads. The kitchen uses rustic orecchiette for this dish, the delightful, small thumb prints that they are. Little flat rounds of dough are individually pressed with the thumb so as to dimple each one into a tiny ear or cup shape.
This sturdy-textured Apulian pasta is slightly chewy with a firm bite. Its substantial texture is the product of an eggless dough made from nothing but hard flour and water.
Each ‘little ear’ of pasta cupped the sweetbread sauce. And what a sauce it proved to be. To begin with, sweetbreads are neither sweet, nor are they bread. They are an organ meat, made from an animal’s thymus and pancreas glands; most commonly from lamb and calf. Poorly named and misleading to say the least, sweetbreads are what some ignorant individuals would deem fit to call ‘the nasty bits’. Nasty, they most certainly are not!
Confident, serious cooking carried out with skill and grace
Rebekah’s offal pasta offering made use of veal sweetbreads. Glazed and tossed through the fresh orecchiette pasta, they were tender and delicious. Richer and sweeter than typical meat, these nuggets of goodness brought a mild, delicate creaminess to the pasta sauce. It was an utterly moreish dish of pasta.
The acidic sharpness of the pickled courgettes was an excellent foil for the richness of the sweetbreads, while the sweetness of the Port wine and the saltiness of the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese further contributed to the robust flavouring of the sauce.
Flavour combinations also worked sensationally well in our other first course dish of salmon. The salmon itself had been hot-smoked in house. The fish, preserved by the smoke, was of a sublime, creamy texture and had taken on an aromatic, delicate flavour.
The smokey aromas were paired with some lovely elements. Precise moments of acidity were granted courtesy of the pickled fennel which cut through the richness of the well-smoked salmon. There was a touch of sweetness from the carob glaze, in turn perfectly balanced by the full-flavoured sharpness of the green apple puree.
Our main course emerged from the kitchen. First there is the duck with sweet potato and polenta. Incredibly tasty, it achieved just the right balance of sweet and savoury. Maximum flavour had been extracted from each ingredient.
The roasted duck breast and cracklingly crisp leg of duck were sumptuously satisfying. I cut through the thick layer of crisped, browned fat (miraculous in its own right, it is better than butter and makes absolutely anything and everything taste better) of the duck breast to the perfectly cooked, rosy red meat beneath; lean and juicy and exquisite.
The sweet potato was a welcome addition. This versatile root vegetable played nicely with the extreme richness of the duck meat. The dish leaned towards an umami sweetness with the sourness in the sweet and sour jus providing a fitting contrast.
A concentration of bold flavour that finished off the dish beautifully, this glistening, thick gravy was fierce and fiery, finding its way into every meaty mouthful.
The trio of lamb is terrific; a riot of vibrant colour, fully garnished with all the right trimmings. It is another triumph. The grilled cutlets are pink and wonderful, partnered with some lashings of a smokey, coarse-textured aubergine caviar that works delightfully with lamb.
Nicely seasoned, the salty homemade sausage is incredibly flavourful; spewing its fatty, juicy meatiness onto the plate. The lamb sausage’s furious temper is soothed ever so slightly by the tart Greek yoghurt it finds itself thickly swathed in.
Completing the trio is a deeply unctuous, cylinder-shaped lamb croquette. Cracking through the crunchy golden crust to reveal the shredded lamb meat within; tender, rich and gelatinous; is gratifying to say the least. A mouthful of hot, crispy croquette pairs wonderfully well with a punchy tomato and mint salsa that offsets the meat’s richness beautifully.
Each element flawlessly came together in this lamb dish, bringing about a plate of striking contrasts, irresistible textures and fresh Mediterranean flavours; all incredibly hearty and satisfying.
Dessert provided an enjoyable end. Having been turned on its head, the upside down carrot cake brimmed with spice and warmth; incredibly moist, nutty and carroty. It was quite superb, served like a thick finger of delicate, tea sandwich; a creamy cheese frosting spread thickly through its middle.
And from one upside-down dessert to another, I moved on to try the splendid tarte tatin with its golden, caramelised flavours. The French certainly know what to do with an apple.
Classic tarte tatin showcases the glory of the softened cooked apple, all its butter-soft, juicy magnificence revealed in this lush, quintessentially French dessert. Tarte tatin enjoys international fame and is no ordinary, plain old apple pie; quite the contrary.
A heavily caramelised sauce, thick with sugar and butter, holds everything together. This seductive toffee sauce oozes over plump apples and a decadently buttery, crisped up puff pastry base that gradually soaks it in. Rebekah’s tarte was gloriously sticky and sweet and utterly heavenly. What a treat.
We had cooed over absolutely every single dish. It had been an indulgent dinner made up of exceptionally lovely moments. Everything had worked together in a way that made it all a profound pleasure. This is confident, serious cooking carried out with skill and grace.
Running a really good restaurant is no small feat. Here, they manage it beautifully and seemingly effortlessly. Everything seems to glide with ease and poise; the food, the service, the entire dining experience. The engaging staff, full of ease and charm, offer a service that is very much fully present yet never intrusive. And the food is seriously special. Accomplished and polished, it’s just everything you’d want to eat. Rebekah’s is a thoroughly lovely restaurant.
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