Château Mon Desir

Address:  B41, Balaclava, Mauritius (Maritim Resort & Spa Mauritius)
Bookings: Booking required
Day: Friday
Meal: Dinner
Price: ££££
Rating: 7.5/10

Screen Shot 2017-11-26 at 17.21.33Our final night in Mauritius, and we decided to jettison any attempt at tramping through backstreets to uncover rough at the edges, flying under the radar type local cuisine, and instead booked ourselves a table at Chateau Mon Desir, an upscale restaurant within the leafy, spacious confines of the Maritim hotel.

 The restaurant immediately distinguishes itself from the Mauritian sartorial norm by forbidding t-shirts or shorts, and the general tone of the place is in the classic European tradition, immaculately suited waiters pouring bottles of fine wine and dusting crumbs of bread from crisp, white tablecloths.

Screen Shot 2017-11-26 at 17.21.21The building is a colonial-era mansion, overlooking a picturesque, ruined old French fort in Balaclava Bay, with the swell of the sea faintly audible from the balcony. Retired race horses, now in their dotage and confined to providing rides for guests at the hotel, cantered around a paddock on the other side of the restaurant, snorting in the warm night air, giving the whole place an oddly surreal tinge.

Screen Shot 2017-11-26 at 17.21.12The menu was strong on seafood. To start, my partner in culinary crime ordered a tuna tartare, wrapped in a film of cucumber, with salmon lain in crème fraiche, a medley of vibrant vegetables on the side. The effect was fresh and enlivening. I ordered a beef carpaccio, liberally sprinkled with a surprisingly good parmesan cheese. The beef was paired with and a soft, rich wedge of pan fried foie gras, which was nicely cooked, a nod to Mauritius’ French heritage.

Both of us gravitated towards a Scottish salmon confit for our main courses, which must have been flown an awfully long way from the chilly waters of Scotland, just to make a return journey in our stomachs less than 24 hours later.

Screen Shot 2017-11-26 at 17.21.54The salmon was served with the mushroom risotto on a separate side plate. The salmon was well cooked, two succulent scallops sitting on either side of it, and an excellent bed of spinach lying beneath. The risotto was pleasant, if a little unexciting, my main complaint being the paucity of it. I was forced to mete out miniscule forkfuls of it to accompany each piece of the hulking salmon.

And so, our Mauritian odyssey ended, rounded out with an excellent dinner, although by far the most expensive one we ate in the country. I would recommend it for those on a special occasion, perhaps one of the many honeymooners who come to Mauritius.

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Heading back into the night, stars flung out against the sky, horses stamping their hooves in the pale moonlight, a warm breeze playing in the palm leaves, our minds were already turning to our next culinary adventure, and wherever it is, we will faithfully chronicle it on Life at the end of a fork.


Sosharu

Address:  64 Turnmill St, London EC1M 5RR
Bookings: Booked through Bookatable – 6 dishes and a glass of wine for £33.50
Day: Tuesday
Meal:  Dinner
Price: ££
Rating: 7.5/10

Screen Shot 2017-09-23 at 18.35.01Sosharu is restaurant mogul Jason Atherton’s Japanese offering in London. It has received something of a mixed reception since opening in March 2016, a feeling that yet another restaurant in London (his 7th), in yet another cuisine, might be a gastronomic bridge too far.

But I have always liked it. It occupies a slightly precarious place at the very foot of our top 10 London restaurants list. It is always on the cusp of eviction in favour of a slightly bolder, more gripping number, but then salvages itself at the last moment with an interesting twist on something Japanese.

Screen Shot 2017-09-23 at 18.34.41The restaurant itself is a big space opposite Farringdon station, the lights dimmed low, large wooden screens dividing the tables, and soothing, ambient music playing in the background, giving the restaurant the look and feel of a luxury oriental massage parlour or spa.

Thoughts of shiatsu massage and aromatic exfoliators are chased away by the arrival at the table of a pair of open temaki sushi, one tuna and the other salmon, a small bottle of lightly spiced mayonnaise sat between them. The temaki are cupped in toasted nori, and the effect is delightful, each bite cool and crispy, little sushi sandwiches which can be wolfed down in a couple of bites.

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Lined up on the side were six immaculate little sashimi pieces, some salmon, some sea bream, the others perhaps sea bass, the waiter’s heavily accented diction leaving me uncertain, but suffice to say it was something from the sea. These were a little limp and unloved, and slipped regretfully down the throat, the flavour washed rapidly away with a swig of diet coke.

Screen Shot 2017-09-23 at 18.35.19We then shared a delicious, sprightly salad, which had been thoroughly doused in a sweet vinegar dressing which we both loved. The salad was littered with tiny little crisped grains of rice, which tasted for all the world like little pieces of popcorn, and worked well against the soft sheets of lettuce and chunks of refreshing pear and apple.

As if the restaurant was intentionally alternating the good and the bad, they then dumped a pair of pallid little chicken gyozas on the table, hidden away in a wooden bowl, the waiter escaping to the kitchen before we could lift the lid to reveal the disappointing contents within. The gyoza were watery, the skin soft and translucent, providing a glimpse at the soggy contents within.

Screen Shot 2017-09-23 at 18.34.16In fairness, I should at this point note that we were eating the heavily discounted Bookatable set menu, and so may well have been receiving the runts rather than the highlights of the kitchen, but nevertheless, we are good people, and deserved better than those two gyoza.

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Finally, we were presented with a pot of steaming rice, a slow-cooked egg whipped-in, and chunks of soft, golden yakitori chicken on the side. This was delicious, warm and nourishing, heat and flavour radiating from the stone bowl that sat in between us. My partner in culinary crime grasped the ladle with the clenched fist of a woman with a purpose, and dug into the rice with gusto.

Screen Shot 2017-09-23 at 18.34.27It was a strong finish to a roller-coaster of a meal. Yet again, Sosharu had ridden to the very edge of being cast out forever from Life at the End of a Fork’s exclusive list of finest London restaurants, only to redeem itself at the 11th hour. It is safe. For now…