Extra: “Doing the absolute damn most. For no reason.” (Urban Dictionary)
Already established: that’s me.
Not already established but henceforth declared to be true: that’s Alder Room.
I know, I know! Alder Room appears to be the absolute all time opposite of extra. The epitome of simplicity and minimalism. The height of super cool but not TOO cool modern everything. But “doing the absolute damn most”??? That is EXACTLY what Ben Staley and his peeps are doing over there. And it’s unbefreakinglievable, my friends.
ALSO. We chose the Alder Room for my birthday dinner celebration and we got the WHOLE PLACE TO OURSELVES. Now, that’s customer service.
Ok, actually the other people just couldn’t make it. BUT still.
We bought tickets in advance, (you don’t make reservations), to the 5 pm matinée seating with ONLY 10 courses vs. the 7:30 pm seating with 17-20 courses. The 5 pm seating allows for 8 people, and I mean in the WHOLE restaurant, and the 7:30 is for 12.
Since we were the only 2, we got a tour of the basement and its connecting secret underground caverns where Ben keeps a subterranean organic garden as well as a small hobby farm, and also got adorbs chef’s hats that say “I Ate at Alder Room and All I Got Was This Lousy Chef’s Hat.”
Or not. But we did get to learn a tonne about the restaurant and its devotion to local ingredients and how Ben has only missed one service (!) since they’ve been open and about Radiohead as soundtrack for life and about tattoos and Scottish heritage and Rhodes Scholars and knives that don’t work so well when you use them upside down!
We also did the wine pairing, and started off with a cider from Normandy that smelled just a leeeetle bit like manure, but a very delicious manure! Fun fact: in the industry, this aroma is not, in fact, referred to as “manure”, but as “barnyard”. Also, Normandy ciders just like to smell this way. And good for them, because turns out, “barnyard” = “très bon”!
So, you start off in the living room, (LOVE), with some small delights that at first, made the ol’ portion loving husband panic. However, he was quick to note that these delights were in fact so delightful, that size did, in fact, not matter.
Endive and seaweed – so refreshing and I kept it on hand to bite into between the other heavier tastes.
Check out the super cool presentation of the quail egg rolled in vegetable ash. And yes, it was delicious!
Fried sunchoke skin with a burnt cream that was sneakily burrowed into the hollow underside.
Caramelized cabbage in a bed of non-caramelized non-cabbage leaves. Robert looooved this but all I have to say is, if you have any challenges with visual perception and being able to distinguish between food and not food, be careful! Glad to help out, Robert.😬
After these lovelies, we moved to the bar where we got the best seats in the house, right in front of the wood fire and right in front of the hard working masters of our destinies. This meant that Ben and Scottish dual citizen/cool tattoo dude did not COMPLETELY hate us. YAY TEAM.
We started with a super yummy scallop and cucumber dish with beautiful thin slices of kohlrabi.
Robert stated, “Hey, you can’t see anything in that picture! Here, let me destroy mine and then you can see what lies beneath.” Ok, Robert.
Now it looks like some kind of animé creature with cucumbers for eyes and kohlrabi for hair, but, thank you for your undying dedication to truth and transparency, dearest husband!
Agh. This was so good. The beetroot was sooooo chewy in a good way and the pickled blueberries and hay cream were perfect with it. Did you know that Ben started pickling and fermenting and preserving stuff 2 years before the restaurant even opened? HELLO PEOPLE THIS IS DEVOTION.
By now, I was actually starting to feel a little full – which mystified the Portion King. But I gamely took on the pork belly with yellow pea miso and onion and I am SO glad I did because YUM. This isn’t your creepy omnipresent pork belly that can now be found in almost every restaurant. I’m pretty sure McDonald’s is going to come out with a Filet O’ Belly soon, but THIS people, THIS was pork belly done right. DONE RIGHT.
What?? Another substantial meat course?
By this time, Robert was grinning ear to ear in portion bliss. And it really was bliss. Dry-aged beef, black garlic and ramp.
Moving on to a rice pudding with sake kasu and wild ginger.
I. LOVED. THIS.
I also could not finish this.
So. Much. Food. So. Much. Flavour. So. Much. Goodness.
After all of this manna from heaven, plus a lot of talking wherein Robert and I forgot that these guys have a job to do and another seating at 7:30 and lots to prepare and we need to actually chew more and yak less, we moved back to the aforementioned living room for some sweets.
This box of sweets is so beautifully done, I started to feel a little frumpy myself. You start on the right with the black trumpet mushroom shortbread, then on to the beets cooked in carrot cordial, followed by burnt honey caramel, and finally, black garlic and birch syrup.
For a girl who LOVES ladling spoonfuls of raw confetti cake mix into her sugar-addicted body, I wondered. I wondered and wondered and then dove in.
I know this is getting repetitive, but YUM, ok?
We bid farewell as two very contented people, thanks to Alder Room.
And, as evidenced by this doctored up photo in which Robert sports a golden swirly eye, we bid farewell as two very EXTRA extra people, thanks to my inability to do anything but the
absolute. damn. most.
For no reason.
In spite of your lack of souvenir chef’s hats, we love you, Alder Room! 😬