It's crazy. Meat in quantity is the enemy of the romantic evening, or at least evenings you hope will end in a burst of vigorous exercise: all that concentrated protein requires so much work to digest that there's little left over for anything else.
Things are looking up, however. While many chefs are investigating the potential of vegetables, some, like Alexis Gauthier of Roussillon, are devising entire menus around them. His five-course "Garden Menu" is exquisite, though beware that meat stocks and flavourings are used: vegetarians should ask about non-meat dishes.
Roussillon, the revamped Marabel's off Pimlico Road, is is a bit like eating in someone's drawing room: hushed and tasteful, with autumnal-coloured walls, botanical prints, elegant dining-room chairs and a huge bay window. I was a little unnerved at first, but one sight of the menu was enough to bring the colour back to my cheeks. There are two set menus here: as well as the "Garden Menu", at pounds 24, there is a five-course "Autumn Menu", at pounds 35, with all the fish and venison a carnivore could need.
A coffee cup of chestnut soup infused with aniseed was rich, gentle and surprising. This was followed by a royale of sauted red onion, green cabbage and girolles, and a beautiful warm salad of purple artichoke, carrot, salsify and leek in balsamic dressing. But the highlight, just before the poached pear in cinnamon and red wine broth (exquisitely executed), was an open raviolo of Swiss chard and poached egg. The flavours still come back to me in happy moments.
Nice work. You'd usually expect to curl up in a ball and sleep after five courses: after this, we went dancing.
Roussillon, 15 St Barnabas St, London SW1 (0171-730 5550)Reuse content