Avalanche – Lunch Menu

How would you define a good lunch? Have a think about that whilst you’re skimming over the next two paragraphs if you like – I come across as quite poncey so you’d be doing me a favour, to be honest.

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There are two recent lunches that stick in the memory: the first took place with my parents in the late summer sunshine, on a coastal hillside just outside Cap D’ail, and was so shoulder-shruggingly French; so achingly beautiful, that it could have been served with a pack of Gauloises by Monica Bellushi… In the middle of some widespread industrial action. (That was for the Clarkson fans)

The second was on a visit to Berners Tavern to meet a friend for lunch. It began with an array of extravagant sea food, continued with a gorgeous silky risotto and finished on a huge slow-cooked lamb. Two bottles of wine sloshed past over the course of around three embarrassingly opulent hours.

Conversely, taking place more than a decade ago and lasting only a matter of seconds, (no, nothing even remotely like “losing my virginity” thank you very much) I can still remember the tang of mustard as I devoured my first ever New York hot dog, gazing in wonder at the endless, angry, swarm of yellow cabs. I think the hot dog cost $1.50 and was served from some sort of an umbrella stand on wheels.

…family, environment, company, quality, clichéd ‘rites of passage’ for anyone with even a passing interest in American cinema: context is everything…

My point is this: family, environment, company, quality, clichéd ‘rites of passage’ for anyone with even a passing interest in American cinema: context is everything; the calibre of that hotdog’s meat trimmings wasn’t what made that experience so memorable.
I had an hour to squeeze a trip to sample Avalanche’s new lunch menu into my break, which would usually give me roughly enough time to order, devour a starter and begin to look anxiously around in the hope that my main turned up soon. Fingers crossed.

The huge windows behind us bathed our table in enthusiastic light. Seats around us were being filled up with workers, shoppers and families as the restaurant bustled and murmured, encouragingly: the diners visibly buoyed by the light, airy, atmosphere.
We chose two dishes each from the list of four starters and four mains, but perhaps the most eye-catching item on the menu was the bottle of wine for £6.95. White, Rose, Red. We chose white and it was perfectly fine: it cost £6.95. In a restaurant.

A quick word on the menu before we get into the specifics: it needs some more variety. I’m all for short menus but there are far too many similar combinations of tomato, onion, mushrooms and garlic here.

Starters arrived quickly in the form of chicken wings and Funghetti Piccanti (button mushrooms cooked in fresh chillies, garlic, white wine, and tomato and basil sauce) and were bubbling with heat.

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It was refreshing to eat chicken wings that actually tasted of chicken and weren’t covered in an entire vat of hot sauce – and that’s coming from someone who has their own “planting box” filled with a vast range of the stuff and loves a good ‘hot wing’.

These were nicely crispy from the oven-roasting – again, very different from your regular wings – and for the most part the chicken was soft and peeled away from the bone. Perhaps they could have done with a bit longer to soak up the flavours of the fresh chilli and garlic in the marinade but otherwise these were good.

The sauce that enveloped the mushrooms was rich with a pleasantly subtle kick but the mushrooms themselves were a little disappointing on the flavour front. It would perhaps be slightly churlish to expect much more from the humble button mushroom, so why not give them a bit of support: throw in some slightly more interesting varieties like shiitake or even chestnut and you’ve got a completely different plate of food on your hands. Well, not ‘on your hands’, unless you’re a small child. Anyway, this should be possible, even on a £13.95 lunch menu.

It was less than ten minutes before our mains were set down in front of us. This is really important on a set lunch menu during the week: it needs to suit the suits. I don’t know about you, but I for one don’t want to be late for Graeme’s SWOT analysis. NOT AGAIN.

The calves liver was nicely pink but not rare, with sautéed red onions that retained a good bite to add a well judged depth of texture. Potatoes were fine. Sage could have been crispier. This was a huge portion too, and so really quite good value on a lunch menu… even if livers are cheap. The only real criticism here was that the dish could have done some more sugary sharpness from a Marsala or balsamic reduction to disrupt the rich, iron-heavy livers.

An entire bottle of wine costs £6.95… Being able to have a couple of glasses of wine with lunch (although we actually took half the bottle home) whilst you nip in for a bite to eat and a natter is an absolute pleasure.

My companion’s chicken pasta was the only actual disappointment of the meal. This wasn’t because it was bad, simply because it was utterly unremarkable. Yes, the vegetables were al dente and had quickly danced in the bubble of a knob of butter; yes, everything was relatively light and fresh; but it was all far too simple to warrant the equivalent of around £9.

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Here’s why I enjoyed lunch at Avalanche. The entire meal lasted an hour: ideal for when you need to rush back to fruitlessly tapping your fingers against Geoff’s forehead for another six hours.

An entire bottle of wine costs £6.95… Being able to have a couple of glasses of wine with lunch (although we actually took half the bottle home) whilst you nip in for a bite to eat and a natter is an absolute pleasure.

You chat, drink, nibble and watch the world (and restaurant) go by in a lively, light, little oasis that serves as a welcome escape from sad salads in front of a spreadsheet.
Granted, the food isn’t exceptional: it needs more subtlety, more variety and more quality ingredients in some dishes to take it up a notch, but so did that hot dog. After all, it’s not just the food that defines a good lunch, is it?

avalancherestaurant.co.uk

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