Love Night @ Thompsons

Call it Wild Tantric Sex Night; call it Moonlit Spontaneity / Potentially Swimming In A Duck-pond Night; call it Ad Hock Reconnect With Mars & Venus In Handpicked Location Night …

But please



can we not call it “date night”?

“We go on date nights,” said my friend defensively.

“Well, you need to rebrand it,” I replied, with the mild ferocity of a woman who hasn’t had a 1-1 date with her own bedroom, let alone bathroom, for the past 17 months. “Or , if not, just be honest and call it Scheduled-Conventional-Diarised-Diagnostic-Missionary-Position-Actually-No-Lets-Go-To-B&Q-And-Buy-Emulsion-Because-Missionary-Position-Sex-Might-Be-Too-Spontaneous-Night.”

My friend looked crestfallen. “I quite liked date night.”

I sighed. Felt guilty. “Well, you two are freshly together so date nights are probably very lovely.”

So, anyway.

Last Tuesday me and Ads went on a Date Night.

We graced the fair walls of award winning chef Robert Thompson’s gorgeous new restaurant on our Isle. The newly renovated building, an ex café and ex-ex florist, sits on a cross road in the centre of town. Many a time Ads has pointed it out and told me what an amazing restaurant it could be. Many a time I’ve secretly thought he was a crack-pot and changed the subject …

But clearly both boys were coming from the same recipe sheet because here we were, stepping into a beautifully transformed space that Rob has created. Tucked away like another world behind sage windows and golden curtains, the atmosphere on entering was reminiscent of my day in Bray, with Heston and his Fat Duck. Rob has constructed the bar from railway sleepers, created/exposed the brick archway on the wall behind and gorgeous little features, such as the lighting and exposed brass pipes on the sink instantly stole my steampunk-loving-heart.

Gazing around (and already slightly drunk on my twenty minutes of freedom) I happily accepted a glass of champagne that came my way.

Then, we were given menus which we barely looked through because we knew what we were having.

“The taster menu please,” Ads informed the waiter. “And two glasses of Spitting Spider Shiraz.”

We were then led through to the next room, where a series of intimate tables were set up before the open kitchen. I have been in working kitchens plenty of times. I have seen restaurants with open kitchens. I have, however, never been sat directly before an open kitchen framed by copper down-lighters, where a team of chefs are on stage-like display and I get to be one of the appreciative audience.



It was from this place, separated from Ads by a Victorian ginger-beer bottle holding delicate wax flowers, that that our Date-Night-Lovers’-Voyage began.

The first adventure was an amuse bouche; a frothy potato mousse that was light as foam and full of earthy flavours and an infusion of truffle that was invisible and woody and gorgeous. As we savoured it, I pointed at the Victorian ginger-beer bottle and told Ads about how my parents used to go bottle hunting in Ashridge Forest before me and my brother were born.

Next came an explosion of taste and sunshine and olives and heritage tomatoes that were drizzled in mouth watering olive powder and olive tapenade.

Once again it transported me to a cellular-memory of my parents in their courting days; in Sicily with our Italian relations, my father hammering out nails on an old stone wall and my mum with the God-Mamas creating olive and ripe, fleshy tomato delights. They wrote these little, folded love notes to each other that I found as a small child and started to read before my mum snatched them off me and stuffed them, crumpled, into her back jean pocket …

As we ate I watched our chefs on their stage, working like blacksmiths of flavour and taste-bud transportation. There is something very present and “in the zone” of good chefs during their service and I watched them with fascination as me and Ads reminisced about his  very first Christmas present from me …. Driving a Ferrari 458 Italia in Thruxton.

Whilst he relayed the experience, I basked in what I good girlfriend I can be at times and we remembered the drive back home, stopping at Pebble Beach, eating some food then lay on the cove and dozed in the sunshine. Sultry, relaxing, gentle times. Then our next course arrived ….

This dish was one of Ads’ favourites. When I asked him why, he said: “The tuna was beautifully cured and kept its freshness and the little emulsions and charred lettuce were so nice to eat. It was really lovely.”

By this point in the deliciousness, Ads had been forced to stop supping Spitting Spider because he had to drive.

I, on the other hand, didn’t have this cross to bear. So I ordered another, then looked up to see that our next offering had arrived: a beautiful plate of seared Orkney Scallops and burnt apple puree. Immediately we were tumbling through the years back to a day when we snatched an hour together at Afton Apple Farm during their apple festival … Under the apple spear salad and apple gel, there was also a tuna ceviche which I forgot to add in …

Whilst Date-Nights are (obviously) important to couples, Date-Days with yourself are also vital. Pre-parenthood, Ads’ favourite Date-Day was to take himself and his spear gun into the waters around the island and float around in a state of fish-hunting-Zen.

Our next dish seemed to somehow capture that simplicity and beauty; locally caught wild sea-bass, broccoli puree that was vibrant and green and set off the flavour of the fish. The toasted quinoa added a gorgeous nuttiness with the bass and the sorrel foam tied it all together. Along with the tuna, this dish was our joint favourite.

The final savoury dish on Rob’s taster menu was a vibrant venison crowned with burnt onion, wilted rainbow chard with butter poached and crispy oyster beignet. It was a modern twist of an old classic; Carpetbag Steak, stuffed steak with oysters. The dish was delicious. It transported me to romantic log fires in New Forest hideaways, following muddy stomps in the forests with one’s sweetheart.

After a little pause between dishes, our chefs brought us a delicate purple bowl. This tantalising little dish was like a forest bird, swooping us from savoury to sweet with caramelised white chocolate mousse, a pocket of blood orange gel and generous scattering of chocolate short bread crumb.
Our final destination of Date-Night-Divinity was served on a wabi sabi bowl as imperfect as the moon (I like a nice bit of earthenware). In the centre was a quenelle of pistachio ice cream, cast with deconstructed pistachio financier, cherry jam and poached cherries placed like dark red planets. Toasted pistachio crumb dusted the plate, giving a crunch to the fruity punch of the cherries and delicious thrill of the ice cream.

By this point I’d had several more glasses of Spitting Spider than I should have done … and may (I think) have discreetly licked the plate.

At the end of this delicious dining experience, the lovely Rob came over to ask how our meal had been. Little did he know that during the service, his Sharpie had been spotted.
Ads explained to me that Sharpies are the pen of choice of all good chefs as they “write on anything”. He then reminded me that it was he who has introduced me to Sharpies (that I now create all of my visuals with, inc. the ones in this blog) and then basked in the glory of being such a good boyfriend with equivalent zest to that I felt over the Ferrari 458 Italia.

Anyway, I asked Rob to pose with his Sharpie. And he kindly did. Although, he possibly thought I was odd.

So, after a sensational evening at Thompsons and a Date-Night that any good couple would be proud of, Ads and I paid our bill and happily headed off to our homestead. Releasing our baby-sitters, we then seductively climbed the stairs to our Date-Night bedroom ….
Where the baby immediately awoke and spent five hours sleeping on my head.

And where, by some strange twist of fate, my middle toe was bitten by a spider and kept me awake from 4am onwards with the most dreadful throbbing sensation during which all I could think about was that lovely Spitting Spider Shiraz.

PS. Just a quick thing … if you liked this, please do sign up to my blog (top right hand corner) as that way you’ll never miss a post. Also, it means I can send you secret letters about secret things that will make you secretly happy and people on the street will wonder why you’re smiling.

PPS. If you’ve been eagerly awaiting me to ACTUALLY tell you about the coaching stuff that saved me during Croatia, it is coming … this week.

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