The Vincent Rooms at Westminster Kingsway College is a fully working college-run restaurant which allows the catering students to experience cooking for real-life paying customers and has trained the likes of Jamie Oliver and Antony Worrall ‘unexpected item in the bagging area’ Thompson.
There’s two choices when booking; The Brasserie which is a large bright and airy dining room serving rustic brasserie style dishes or the fine dining Escoffier Room which is where we chose to eat.
The dining room was an intimate space and a bit like a posh person’s living room – complete with a flat screen telly hanging on the wall rather bizarrely. There was plenty of natural light and it was a comfortable place to sit and enjoy the 6 course tasting menu priced at £25 which is all they offer.
The waiters were also catering students as they have to learn all aspects of the restaurant industry. After the initial nerves had settled down it was really enjoyable chatting away to them and learning about their course.
Three amuse bouches kicked things off brilliantly. The duck and crispy pancake was delicious, the mackerel tartare with apple was fresh and zingy and the mushroom duxelles on crunchy toast was the perfect blend of textures with a rich mushroom flavour.
The first course was ballotine of quail, truffle and chive, artichoke, pickled radish and hazelnut. The quail was cooked to perfection and was majorly succulent. There were a lot of ingredients present yet the only real flavour coming through was that wonderful quail. As lovely as it was I felt I missed out on the flavours of the other ingredients.
The next course was glazed chicken wings, chestnut and foie gras covered in a veal consomme poured from a glass teapot which was a lovely touch. The consomme was light and delicate yet packed a meaty punch. The wings had been deboned and were a little mouthful of chickeny heaven. I could have done without the ‘blob’ of chestnut which just seemed to curdle in the consommé. Without that this dish was delightful.
The pan fried Atlantic cod with clam ketchup, seared cucumber and samphire looked a stunning plate of food. The cod hit the spot with its crackling-like skin and soft flakey flesh. The clam ketchup didn’t resemble any ketchup I’ve seen before but it did provide a different texture which was most welcome. The seared cucumber was rather unusual but really worked – it was warm yet totally refreshing and a great companion for the cod.
My favourite dish (maybe because I’m a total carnivore) was the lamb cannon with a herb crust, sweet breads, pomme puree, winter vegetables and trompettes (a type of mushroom). The lamb was a reassuring shade of pink and was like a soft meaty pillow. The dish was meat, potato and veg done beautifully and it was all cooked to perfection.
For pre-dessert we were served their take on a lemon meringue pie which was a shot of lemon posset with meringue shards and a raspberry jelly on the side. Apart from the random jelly which was a little too sweet for my liking the posset was pure lemony perfection. I wolfed it down in seconds.
Our dessert was chestnut parfait with caramelised figs and marron glace. The chestnuts had been given the same treatment glace cherries go through making them super sweet. This contrasted the almost savoury flavour of the ice cold chestnut parfait wonderfully. It all really worked and made for an enjoyable and not too heavy pud.
I gladly had enough room for the petit fours which included a salted caramel fudge, a chocolate truffle and the highlight for me, the macaroon with a chocolate ganache filling.
The food we devoured at the Escoffier Room wasn’t faultless but the minor mistakes are easily forgiven. The whole point of having a restaurant inside a college is that they’re still in training and that is why it’s so reasonably priced. For £25 we were shown a vast array of cooking techniques which take a lot of skill. I had a lovely time during my visit and would thoroughly recommend it.