Eleven Madison Park ~ A Perfect New York Day

This post has been long time coming – so apologies to my faithful readers who have been waiting for my next exciting adventure.   I have no excuses except that a lot has happened over the last few months… but enough of that… let’s get down to it!   Just so you know – this is a picture heavy post – but once you see them, you’ll understand! I would consider this meal to be one of the best of my lifetime and I had to collect the photographic evidence to share!  Enjoy!!

000 front door

I ummed… and I ahhed… should I or shouldn’t I go???  It would be expensive… but it was the opportunity of lifetime.  Travelling and eating with my wonderful girlfriend iMac – it might be the only chance I have to get there….  What on earth am I talking about… ??  The amazing two Michelin starred restaurant Eleven Madison Park.  Considered a bit of a mecca in New York, it has featured in loads of movies and TV shows and has an amazing reputation for fabulous food.  It was going to be expensive…did I say that already…. the website warns that you will be charged $225 to enjoy a multi-course menu.  It doesn’t state how many courses – but perhaps that’s part of the intrigue.  iMac said she would come if I wanted to go.  Yay!!  My decision was made. I made a Friday afternoon booking for lunch and what an amazing afternoon it was.

We had just spent the morning spending far too much money at the Madison Avenue flagship stores of Tory Burch and Kate Spade!  We gathered up our purchases and caught the subway back down to 23rd Street for our fine dining adventure.

THe light filled room

Motif

Ambience  - roses and the bar

Place settings

Everything was spectacular.  The restaurant space is incredibly impressive, with huge windows looking out to Madison Square Park, and the whole room was stunningly punctuated with perfect bunches of pink roses.  The table settings were pared back and simple.

Rather than go for matched wines… we decided that some glasses would be a better option – as long as one was a pinot!!  The restaurant has a 121 page wine list that includes a 1978 Grand Cru Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Monopole at $11,995 a bottle. Ahhh…. How I would have loved to be able to check that out for you dear reader… but I didn’t want to blow the budget that much!!  I am happy to report that the list also included more affordable wines (even one at $45) – I’m not sure how good they  would be – but it was heartening to see a range of options hovering around the 2 digit mark.  But enough phaffing about…

C1 - Surprise 2

We started with a glass of champagne each…

C1 - B&W cookiesCheddar
Savoury Black and White Cookie with Apple

Then our gustatory journey began…. with some beautiful tarts looking deceptively like Neenish tarts.  Instead of a sweet filling – they enrobed a beautiful cheese and apple cream filling.  Delicious.

Ambience - water & roses

C2 - Sea Urchin Snow

Sea Urchin
Snow with Smoked Cantaloupe and Yoghurt

Our amuse bouche was a mesmerising mound of amazing sea urchin snow, served with cucumber, smoked melon and yoghurt.  It just melted (as snow would) in your mouth.

C3 - Surf clam

Surf Clam
Tomato, Beans and Savory

This gorgeous single surf clam was served with summer beans and savory herb. The clam meat and beans were hidden in the softest ever mousseline. I love that the clam shell is sitting on a bed of sand. Stunning.

C4 Littleneck clam 4

C5 - Tomato consomme

C4 chowder 5

C4 Littleneck clam 5

C4 Whelk clam 5

C4 Littleneck clam 2

Littleneck Clam
Manhattan Chowder with Whelk and Razor Clam

This course was an amazing layering of textures and tastes.  Obviously a deconstructed chowder, we were first served a gorgeous clam broth which was infused at the last minute at our table with some fresh chervil. There was an amazing smokiness and fragrance to the delicate broth, which tasted so clean and aromatic it was almost spiritual.  The shellfish were skilfully prepared and had the finest touches to them.  Amazing.

C5 Tomato - all together

C5 Tomato - tomato

C5 Tomato - Lobster

C5 Tomato - all together2

C5 Tomato - Lobster2

Tomato
Confit with Lobster Salad and Bonito

Our next course was another layering of textures and tastes. We enjoyed the purest taste of uber fresh Maine lobster claw, which was served with another dish of gorgeous roasted Pennsylvania tomato bavarois. The slow roasted tomato was served with potato confit mixed with beautifully delicate lobster meat, and aerated buttermilk dressing.  Alongside these dishes was an amazing savoury tomato soup which was ever so slightly carbonated and had the ethereal scent of basil.

C5a - Bread

C5a - 2 butters

Bread and butter

Bread and butter should probably not be counted as its own course – but goodness me, this bread was awesome.  The rolls were buttery and light, made from organic Cayuga flour. They were like a croissant in texture, with layers of buttery goodness.  They were served with amazing freshly churned butter decorated with hyacinth flower and freshly rendered duck fat. Hello!!

C5b Brulee Foie Gras2

C5b Brulee Foie Gras

Foie Gras
Brulée with Summer Berries and Beets

This dish was freaking awesome. It’s hard to pick out a favourite from all the amazing dishes we had – but this would have to be up there.  Hudson Valley Foie Gras custard, bruléed so there’s this gorgeous microscopically thin crispy layer of toffee, served with golden currants and Cayuga beets.  Amazing. I want some more now….

C6 - carrot - New Jersey

C6 - carrot -  fresh ground + oils

C6 - carrot - tartare condiments

Condiments from top left to right: Carrot mustard, mustard oil, Plum mustard, toasted sunflower seeds,
pickled quail egg, bluefish flakes,
chives, pickled yellow mustard seeds, fresh horseradish,
pickled red plum, Long Island sea salt

C6 - condiment close up

C6 - carrot -  bread

C6 Carrot

C6 - altogether

Carrot
Tartare with Rye Bread and Condiments

Now I’m a little bit fond of a traditional steak tartare – so when I saw this carrot come out I was dubious.  However, the dish was amazing. The quality and attention to detail on the condiments was spectacular – each ingredient contributed to the dish and added more depth.  The carrots were from the black muck soil of Warwick Valley in Orange County and were deliciously sweet, minced at the table with an old fashioned mincer that would make my grandmother proud.   Served with thin seven grain toast, iMac and I ate every morsel on this plate.

C7 Black bass

C7 Black bass2

Black Bass
Poached with Zucchini and Squash Blossoms

This sea bass dish was another standout dish.  The fish was sourced from Montauk, the East town of Long Island that has been made famous by the series Revenge!  It had been poached, then scaled beautifully with zucchini. It was served with squash blossom, ratatouille, and a gorgeously golden saffron sauce. The fish was meltingly tender and the presentation was amazing.

C8 Sunflower 2

Sunflower
Barigoule with Sunchokes and Black Truffle

Now I have a confession to make – this was our least favourite dish.  Although the sum of the parts was better than the individual elements, it just lacked something in the wow department.  The sunflower was served with cooked burghal, truffle brioche crust, roasted sunchokes, and truffle punches (discs).   A beautifully presented dish – but not a show stopper.

C9-10 knife & roses

C9 duck

C9 duck2

C9 duck - rice_

Duck
Roasted with Apricots and Fennel

Oh my goodness.  When the duck was presented to us at the table – we got very excited.  That looked like a beautiful piece of protein, and we were looking forward to a huge breast each, and maybe even a leg!  Imagine how crestfallen we were when we were presented our dishes with a relatively tiny sliver of duck!!! What happened to our big bird???  Of course, we realised that what we saw was “the presentation duck” that was probably seen at every table.  Damn!!!  Nonetheless – this dish was once again stunning.  The duck had been hung for two weeks and then baked in honey, lavender, coriander, Szechuan pepper and fennel seeds on a bed of apricot, fennel and thyme.  It was served with a silky citrus duck jus.   We were also served the leg separately which had been braised and served with rice, fennel fronds, duck skin and cumin seeds.  All in all – a fabulous dish.

C11 - Greensward picnic

C11 - basket contents

C11 - basket contents2

C11 - pretzel

C11 - cheese

Greensward
Pretzel, Mustard and Grapes

The next course was a bit of fun. Greensward refers to an area of fresh, green turf – somewhere you might have a picnic.  We were served a basket and unpacked it ourselves.  What a delightful, playful course. Included in our basket was a pasteurised washed rind cheese from Vermont, a fresh pretzel, delicious mustard relish, and champagne grapes.  It was awesomely delicious!

C12  - eggnog prep

C12  - Egg cream

Malt
Egg Cream with Vanilla and Seltzer

As a little interlude we were served a New York egg cream made with vanilla malt syrup, olive oil, milk and seltzer!  It was delicious – beautifully fresh and effervescent!

C13  - Sassafras

C13  - Sassafras2

Sassafras
Sorbet with Banana Cake, Caramel and Vanilla

Dessert course number one.  We were a little sad – as it meant we were coming to the end of such an awesome meal.  I didn’t want it to ever end!!  This delicious dish was created from a cloud each of frozen vanilla seltzer and sassafras sorbet.  Accompanying them were birch caramel, cream cake, nut crumble and honey and banana brittle. Sublime!

C14b  - red pepper

C14b  - red pepper2

Red Pepper
Cheesecake with Strawberry

Hello! Did someone say cheesecake???  The base of this second beautiful dessert was classic New York cheesecake which was then topped with a strawberry and red pepper sorbet, cashew butter, and frozen strawberry pearls. Amazing!  Great complementary flavours with the sorbet acting as a zingy foil to the creamy rich cheesecake!

C14  -Card 1

C14  - chocolarte 3

C14  - Sleight of hand 2

Card tricks and chocolates

This course was awesome.  Our waiter came out with a deck of cards and started to shuffle them.  The cards did not have the standard king, queen or ace of spades, clubs or hearts emblazoned on them.  Instead – they wore the emblem of a flavour: coffee, lime, strawberry, mint, etcetera. We each had a dish in front of us with a mini cloche over the top.  After a range of elaborate card rearrangements and shuffles, we were each asked to randomly pick out a card. Mine had a honey emblem, while iMac’s had citrus.   I couldn’t believe it – our server lifted the cloche and there was my chocolate matching exactly the card I had chosen: honey.  iMac was very happy with her citrus chocolate.  Apparently David Copperfield had taught this trick to the wait staff (that may be a bit of a romantic notion – but I choose to believe it).  Love a bit of magic!

C15 pretzel4

C15 brandy_

Pretzel
Chocolate Covered with Sea Salt

Just when you thought there couldn’t be any more – out came this elaborate stand with two decadently chocolate covered pretzels. Hello!!!  We were also served a glass of St George Distillery Apple Brandy. Whoa! At 40% ABV it packed a glorious punch.  That woke us up!

C19a B&W symmetry

C19a B&W symmetry 2b

Chocolate
Sweet Black and White Cookie with Apricot

In a beautiful act of symmetry, our last dish was a sweet version of the classic Neenish tart. It was delicious – not too sweet, and a perfect finish to an amazing lunch.  We noticed that the table next to us had finished – and I had to take this photo of prep for the next service where the server was ironing the fresh tablecloths.  In keeping with their amazing and down to earth service all afternoon, this wait person did not mind at all that I took a photo. And this might be a good time to stop and just laud the service we received.  Nothing was too much trouble, our servers were approachable and fun – this amazing two Michelin star restaurant is not stuffy at all. We were delighted by our experience.

C14c Coffee

C14c Tea

C20 The damage

Coffee, Tea and The Damage

We finished with tea and coffee, and of course the bill.  So, you’re probably wondering – after this extravaganza, how much did our afternoon of indulgence cost?  Well the bill came to about US$350 each.  Remember, the food alone was $225, and we had three glasses of fine wine.  Being America and because the service was amazing – we tipped another US$50 each, which made the grand total US$400 each.   That seems a lot doesn’t it?   But you know what – I would not hesitate to go again.

We had experienced 18 distinct courses – including canapés, les amuses bouches, bread, and chocolates – and over 3 hours of blissful service.  Each course was presented impeccably, with amazing attention to detail, and layers and layers of finely tuned and finessed flavours.  A once-in-a-lifetime experience…?  I hope not!!

Ambience 2

000 entry

Breakfast Muesli

30 squirrel

We wandered out of the restaurant – but were also given an gorgeous gift of home-made muesli to take home with us.  The experience could continue into breakfast!!  Does that make it 19 courses…????  We walked through Madison Square Garden blissfully happy and perhaps a little tipsy.  I was very excited to see squirrels and had to get a photo!

40 bar2

Not content to let our afternoon end just yet – we decided to check out the bar at 230 Fifth.  This is an amazing rooftop bar with glorious views out and over Manhattan.

40 bar

40 flowers in bar2

40 Empire from bar

50 Matilda

And to finish off this amazing day in New York – we joined up with the gorgeous AT and Pesky M to see the great Broadway show Matilda, composed by our very own Tim Minchin.  An amazing feel good triumph – Matilda is an awesome Broadway musical that I can highly recommend.  Although Bartie Carvel stole the show as Miss Trunchbull!

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