There are two menus on offer at The Cross; a five course, wine-matched degustation suite that samples the very best of the local larder, one taste at a time. And a three course traditional menu with four balanced options for each ‘layer’. Bestofalba’s foursome chose the latter of the two menus one drizzly night in July 2016.
Take a pew
It says three courses on the menu but the treats begin before menus are offered with a disparate trio of hors d’oeuvres presented on individual wooden blocks. Just the thing to compliment aperitifs as our party sinks into the warmth and comfort of the welcoming lounge seating. Delice.
A prayer before dining
Will the wine list be at one with the menu? Well, menus considered, it was time to pour over the surprisingly complex and (once again) layered options from new and old worlds of wine. Take Riesling…and we did. In addition to quality offerings from the relevant and expected brands from Germany and Austria, there were pick of the crop options from NZ, Australia (notably Grosset Polish Hill) and, especially of interest, a US ‘experiment’ with local fruit allied to old world expertise in the form of Austria’s Dr Loosen team no less.
Ditto a 90-10% cab / shiraz blend from Washington State that demonstrated finesse is no longer a unique attribute of Bordeaux. Smooth, sumptuous, svelte.
And so to dinner. A modest room made intimate by clever partition with an atmosphere simultaneously relaxed and refined. And a team that successfully combined service serenity with serving efficiency. And another off-menu treat.
Pre-entrée, we were served an amuse bouche of white onion soup that proved appropriately sweet and delicate unlike its more robust French cousin. A perfect start to our dine fine.
Miracle of the fish
I won’t do justice to every option from every course so I will highlight personal favourites chosen by your reviewer – but we hope the photos from each course do the food artistry justice. However, the range of local fish options deserves special mention with red mullet, john dory, halibut and wild sea bass all on duty.
A rising star
The word artistry, by the way, is entirely justified. Surpassing the quality of produce, preparation and cooking, the presentation of each dish was superb and smacked more of Michelin star than Michelin listing.
I chose foie gras ballotine with asparagus, pickled mushroom and white truffle as my (official) starter and my reward was a concoction of richness and luxuriance cut with the sharpness of pickled mushroom and the crisp green freshness of asparagus. It deserved a fine Sauterne to wash it down but our American Riesling more than held its own in this exalted company.
So to the main event. Local lamb loin – not quite pink enough to my taste – was married to a pearl barley risotto and baby vegetables and cossetted in its own jus. As tender as you’d like and as flavoursome as you’d have any right to expect. Expert chef-ing indeed.
A much hoped for respite was provided by choices of cheese and biscuits / passionfruit soufflé (15 mins). Then my rhubarb cheesecake and sorbet with pistachios arrived.
Wha … wait … no … fine dining and rhubarb? Really? Really. Rhubarb is predominantly a Scottish treat that demands strong sweetness to counter this sharply bitter, acidic fruit like veg. Hardly top table stuff and, in the wrong hands, a bit of a come-down to earth after the previous stars in the culinary sky. Do not worry readers. This doughty devil of the dessert menu was suitable tamed by our resident chef. And the result was a triumph of subtlety over sharpness, of delicacy over dourness. Brilliant.
Coffees were accompanied by more delicate sweet treats that merely confirmed that our ‘ordinary’ three course menu had been transformed into a virtual six course feast. This made the apparently expensive £55 / head charge really something of a bargain in our collective opinion. Value is everything.
Finally, a good word to be said about our patron saints Derek and Celia. Attentive with radar like observational skills, they know when to appear and disappear – a rare feat even in fine fooderies.
No higher praise
We have dropped our scoring system in recent weeks – because only excellent products and services can make the bestofalba website and scoring variation is somewhat limited. But with the veritable religious experience of dining at The Cross, we are prepared to make an exception. Marked out of ten, their score goes all the way up to eleven.
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