I love new restaurants. Quite often, I stumble into opening days completely by accident: I ate at Jamie’s Italian on their pre-launch event, after noticing it was open on a walk down King Street, and visited Le Relais de Venice L’Entrecôte on their first day under similar circumstances.
While I didn’t visit Artisan – Living Ventures’s new restaurant on Spinningfields – on its opening day, I did apparently order its first Sunday Roast. Or did I? For when is a Sunday Roast not a Sunday Roast? Well…when it’s cooked sous vide – French for ‘under vacuum’.
The sous vide method of cooking, which has been used by professional chefs for decades, has grown in popularity in recent years: partly due to its promotion by celebrity chefs and the availbility of sous vide machines for use in the home. By vacuum packing food in a plastic bag and cooking it inside a water bath – at lower temperatures than used in conventional cooking methods – the food retains its moisture and most of its nutrients. So when we were told that the roasts we’d ordered were cooked using the sous vide method, for ten hours, we could hardly wait to try them.
My partner and I walked into Artisan’s airy and spacious dining room – modelled on an artist’s loft – and were shown to our table by a friendly waitress who was very amused at the idea that I was taking pictures. My partner was quite giddy to see that they had a herb garden on the main walkway leading up to the dining area.
To start, we ordered the ‘Crisp flatbread shards with: porcini powder’ and the ‘Sticky pork rib with chilli and garlic’. The pork rib was well presented, in an old-style iron skillet. The meat was tender and the chilli and garlic sauce had a moreish, sweet vinegary taste – so much so that my partner kept dipping her flatbread in it. An excellent starter.
The sous vide prepared meat had been browned in a pan – the main limitation of this process is that it doesn’t brown the food being cooked – and was very tender and flavoursome. The accompanying vegetables were perfectly cooked and the portion size would have scared a builder with a good appetite. The crackling, served with the pork roast, was crunchy and I stole more than my partner was willing to part with from her plate.
Artisan is a modern restaurant with interesting artwork, attentive staff and, more importantly, a great Sunday lunch. Anyone who loves Sunday lunch, and is curious about the sous vide approach to cooking, should give them a try. As for the rest of their menu, given the quality of their pork rib starter, I can’t wait to work my way through it on my next visit.