Saturday, March 10, 2007

Sweet tooth

Restaurant reviewers will often visit a new venue twice or three times to get a fuller sense of the menu. It's only responsible to return and try different dishes, to get a fuller flavour of the place.

According to this logic, visiting somewhere eight times is not mania or compulsion but thorough research. Which is good, since that makes my bi-weekly trips to pastry paradise Sweet in Exmouth Market almost scholarly, and certainly not morbidly gluttonous. (My cardiologist differs.)

By now, I have had a fair sample of their range so feel rather qualified to tell you that you need to go there. Now. Stop reading (at the end of this post), pull on some trousers and run down to Exmouth.

On Thursday I had the éclair I had been promising myself for a week. Its dark chocolate wig was as glossy as the front cover of Vogue (you could see your face in it); in fact, the choux pastry was as airy as most of Vogue and the chocolate cream filling was almost as unctuous as... Tatler.

Today was the rhubarb tart, which had a crumbling crust and plentiful chunks of the bitter 'barb against the sweet custard, while last week's second visit was the bread and butter pudding, which comes in its own tiny tin, the sultana-spotted body gently warmed to caress your mouth.

The meringue of a fortnight ago was the most pleasant surprise. Instead of being so sugary you fear your teeth will drop out as you bite into the snowy crevasses of its Alpine form - and who can find NHS dentist-sherpas at short notice? - it is delightful. The centre is chewy, not hard, and the meringue is large enough to make you wonder why you ever went with that tarty pavlova, you know, the one you see in Soho flaunting her strawberries. Virginal meringue, I'm yours.

If Sweet can cause a tacit critic (yeah, right) to turn into a prolix evangelist for what is really no more than egg white and sugar, imagine how they are with more ingredients. It's like a juggler who gets more impressive every time they add a ball, only here we have lemons for tarte au citron or strawberries for the impressively-piled treat that I plan on devouring next week.

I fear I must curtail this review soonish - thinking about all these desserts is sending me into a hyperglycaemic coma. For the sort of culinary wizardry J.K. Rowling couldn't have invented, it's Sweet all the way. Now if you'll pardon me, I must go brush my teeth.

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