My husband and I have been waiting for this restaurant to open. We’ve been tracking Mark Jarvis’ journey for years now, and every time he opens a new restaurant we’re there. We had high hopes for Stem, based on what we know of Mark and his food in the past. This restaurant is good for those wanting to take that step into fine dining world, but are not yet used to the formal setting. The atmosphere and setting is casual, but neat. On flavour, however, we were sad to conclude that the restaurant did not deliver, leaving us somewhat underwhelmed.
I’m hoping that this more due to being the first week of opening, and once things get to full swing this improves.
The appetizer was nice enough, flavour was like minted peas, with nice mousse on top. It might have been potato mousse, but don’t quote me on that. The pastry shell was thin and worked well, the peas seemed a little bit too hard for me.
The sourdough bread was excellent, and I would even say one of the best things of the whole meal. The butter tests was passed, the butter being soft and easy to spread.
I enjoyed the asparagus with lemon oil and tarragon cream. The dish did leave you wanting more of it however. My husband felt there should’ve been more of the cream, as you were left eating the last bits of asparagus without any sauce. The flavours worked well for me, and the asparagus was cooked well, with still crunchy bite to it. The dish was paired with 2016 Ciu Ciu ‘Falerio’, Trebbiano / Pecorino / Passerina, Marche, Italy. White wine, with a lovely floral note.
The next dish of fermented radicchio and blood orange was a bit of a weird one. On the drinks pairing, this was served with Wild Beer, ‘Ninkasi’, Somerset, UK, which actually complemented the food extremely well. We felt that without the drink the food wouldn’t have been as enjoyable. The fermented leaves and blood orange flavor actually went well together, however without the beer wouldn’t perhaps had been very nice.
At this stage we were feeling somewhat disappointed, and were really looking forward to the smoked chicken tortellini with leek hearts cooked in truffle oil. Unfortunately, the general trend of being underwhelming in terms of flavour continued. We were in fact getting very frustrated, because Mark is so much better than this! The tortellini itself was nicely thin, however too al dente for me. The chicken filling seemed quite dry, and not delivering much on flavor. I thought the leek hearts were very nice, the best thing on the dish, however I didn’t get the truffle flavor coming through at any point on this plate of food. For me, the jus was a little bit salty, however my husband didn’t agree with me on this aspect. Wine pairing for this dish was 2016 Pierre Frick, Riesling, Alsace, France. Slightly floral with a little bit of sweetness, but not from the sweet end of the Riesling spectrum. Very enjoyable.
Before the cod baked in lemon verbena, grelot onion, nasturtium and pear came, we thought that was going to be the ‘make or break’ plate of food, whether the restaurant could redeem themselves. The fish itself was cooked very well, being translucent and not overcooked, still quite firm. On flavor, we thought the plate was lacking again. The pear brought nice flavor and sweetness to the fish, and I thought the mini onions were the best thing on the plate. I tend to find cod quite a tasteless fish in general. I felt something on the plate was a bit too salty for me. As a drink pairing we had 2015 Sokol Blosser, Pinot Gris, Williamette Valley, California.
The next main dish of beef was nice and pink. We were looking forward to cutting into a succulent, melt-in-the-mouth piece of meat. Unfortunately, we both found the piece of meat somewhat tougher and chewier that we were expecting. The dish also came with beef tartare, which unfortunately was very bland. I think it’s very important to have great flavours going on when serving raw beef, and I have in my time had some excellent tartares. This dish was served with 2016 Vigneureuse, ‘CroiZADe’, Syrah / Duras, Gaillac, Rhone, France.
Cheese course came with thin, crispy crackers that I thoroughly liked. I’m not usually a fan of crackers, end up eating my cheese on it’s own, however I did like these ones. My husband thought completely opposite to me about this. The cheese was served with tomato chutney, which in our mind didn’t work, and was quite unpleasant. Of, course, we had this this with some Fonseca, 20 YearTawny Port, Portugal.
The best part of the dessert of strawberry, tomato and rosemary, was the red strawberries, which were excellent with full of flavour and sweetness. The white strawberries left me thinking they were just raw strawberries, I didn’t enjoy them very much. There was a subtle flavour of rosenmary coming through, which worked quite well. Dessert wine pairing was 2017 Landon Chartier, ‘Naturlich’, Folle Blanche / Gamay, Loire, France. Slightly sparkling, in between white and rose wine, it was very pleasant with a hint of strawberry.
Our main feeling was that the drinks stole the show. We would go back to Stem for drinks more than the food, at this stage. I wish them all the best, and hopefully they will develop and grow as time goes by.