So, I've been out of cirulation for quite a while, and this week it got on top of me. I decided to take some positive action, and start getting out a bit more, even if it means alone (all but one of my friends being at least 500 miles away). Scary stuff.
I decided to start somewhere familiar to me. I used to go to The Lemon Tree quite regularly, and worked there as a door steward a few years back. Added to the facts that my ex husband was 2nd chef there, and I met my last partner there, it's a bit like revisiting an old home. None of the old staff remain, however - not even in the kitchen from what I could see (it's open to the restaurant), but the restaurant itself was as familiar and comfortable as I expected - despite a lovely fresh revamp on the decor.
I admit to hiding myself at one of my favourite old tables right at the back away from the stage and the bar and kitchen - but at least I was out of the house. :)
I started with a course of courgette, sun-dried tomatoes and haddock risotto, which was absolutely delightful. I had expected to spend a little time picking out the tomatoes, but luckily for me the description was wrong. These tomatoes were little loops of light, moist (definitely not any form of dried) tomatoes that left a lovely juice in the mouth. The courgettes were in nice big chunks and perfectly cooked so that they weren't crunchy, but not mushy either. The haddock was mixed in so that unless you had a piece on your fork, you didn't taste it over everything else; a difficult balance to achieve with fish. The rice had a few small forkfuls that were a little crunchy, but I don't mind that - I prefer it to a risotto that ends up all gooey and overdone, and it was only a few forks' worth. Overall I was really glad I chose that dish.
By now the band had started playing. They were called Papa Mojo and played a style of quite traditional blues music. They were mostly unobtrusive with just a few horrible jokes, and the music was great. One of the two singers apologised for a croaky throat, but I had enjoyed his songs more than the other as there was a slight Joe Cocker effect. Of course - I don't know if that's how he always sounds, but it was the kind of raspy blues vocal that I like. They mixed in a few songs that they said were by 'confused' blues musicians - with an element of gospel mixed in. I have to say they were the parts I didn't enjoy so much, but they didn't do enough of them to spoil the outing for me.
I was enjoying the music so much that I settled down for the whole show, and to follow my risotto I decided to set my diet aside, and had the orange creme brulee. This dish was absolutely heavenly. It had the thinnest crispest layer of burnt sugar, and under that was a light cream that was deliciously icy cold. It had the exact measure of orange in it so that the dish tasted light and creamy, and also refreshingly zesty. The only issue I had with it was that it was in a little ramekin, and served with a large dessert spoon! However, when my hot chocolate arrived in a tall glass, it came with a short teaspoon, so I was able to use that spoon for my dessert - it was basically useless for the drink.
At least both spoons were clean - I had to move my table settings around to get a clean fork (something I've encountered before at the venue). I found this ironic as I watched two waiters polish up heaps of cutlery while I was waiting to be served initially. I wasn't aware that it had changed to a system where you order your food at the bar yourself. There is a little menu holder on the table that says "Welcome to the Lemon Tree" on one side, and - as I later discovered because it had been turned to the back of the table and covered by a wilting paper menu - "Please order at the bar" on the other. I think they should put this information on the menu as well, or both sides of the menu holder to be sure it can bve easily seen. I wuold have suggested this to the guy I placed my orders with, but I have the distinct feeling it was his first day, and I didn't want to cause him more panic than he was already experiencing. He did ok with my queries about gluten free options, so I let him off the hook. The waiting staff were slow to clear away (I seem to become invisible in public places - the table next to me was attended to twice and cleared away on a third visit, while I sat with the same dishes clearly left aside to be lifted) but that's no big deal.
But - none of the latter comments spoiled my visit in any way. I felt relaxed, and the food was just divine, and the music was enjoyable and not overbearing. I would be happy to return, but more importabtly, it went well enough for me that I'm a little happier to venture to somewhere less known to me. Maybe I'll start reviewing such places a little more often. :)