Walking up the path to Casamia, an outside wood burner crackles and spits, throwing off the smells of Autumn, hinting at what's to come. There's the usual warm welcome from Carrie on entering the restaurant and those of keen eye will notice that even the pictures on the wall have changed, the sunny beaches of summer have given way to scenes of Autumnal woodlands.
The menu confidently embraces the season and the greens of summer have given way to richness, smoke and the tastes of the forest floor. Even the butter has a seasonal change at Casamia with Marmite butter now accompanying the milk stout bread. The menu as always is a story in itself, a journey where individual dishes are not just amazing in their own right but are developed in consideration of what came before and what is to follow. One of the things we love about Jonray and Peter is the intelligence they bring to their food and when they talk you through the dishes, as they do because they bring our food to your table, it is inspiring how thought and love has driven the menu.
Every dish is worth a mention but we'll just talk about three here. The menus this year have always begun with a tartlet, and the Quiche Lorraine of Summer has become a mushroom tartlet with Parmesan for Autumn. If you attended EatPlayLove2013 in September, you will have tried this on the day and what really surprised everyone was how much flavour you could get into this bite sized tartlet. More than a few people had a wow moment and while we have come to know what to expect from Casamia, we're amazed afresh how they deliver food this good each and every time.
Shortly after that, the menu description reads Duck egg, truffle, and while that already sounds good, it substantially undersells the dish, for it is of one of the best things we have tasted all year. A duck egg sabayon is served into a clay shell in which there is a duck yolk at the bottom together with black truffles that have been cooked whole in truffle juice and duck stock then chopped up into rice size pieces and reduced with a little more duck stock to create a truffle ragout. On top of the duck egg mousse is seeded bread that has been sliced thin, grilled and then cooked in a hot pan with butter and truffle oil. This is all finished with a fresh cut chives and droplets of truffle oil. This is cooking at its best and brings on in the diner either excited giggles or a quiet moment of contemplation. It's a masterpiece of the chef's craft.
Too much food to discuss everything so skipping through a fabulous battered scallop and the pheasant main and a couple of desserts (pictures below), the meal ends with a plum souffle. Everyone knows that souffles are little devils to get right and over the course of this blog, we've seen substantial variation even at top notch restaurants. At Casamia however, they have seemingly done the impossible and when our two souffles arrive at the table, they have risen with precision and are identical. Everyone eating the tasting menu at Casamia in Autumn will get a souffle and the brothers didn't want a table of four say to have souffles that differed between diners, they wanted it perfect. Delving back to Antoine Careme's first published recipe for a souffle (1814), utilising specially commissioned ramekins and undertaking an intense study of the chemistry of why a souffle does what it does (together with endless practical trials), they have achieved an all natural but perfectly behaved, perfectly risen, perfectly identical souffle. Little further explanation is needed as to why we think Jonray and Peter are special.
Three menus into the year, Casamia have proven to us that they can deliver something exceptional time and again, across seasons, across ingredients and with consistency. Three menus in, there has not been a single dish we have not liked nor a single dish in which we can find fault. The Autumn menu is a terrific success, a celebration of the season and a real joy to eat. If you have yet to try it, you really should make the effort, Autumn wont be with us forever and it's a menu not to be missed. For us however, we say roll on Winter.