This review is from my second visit to Patagonia, and it's with somewhat of a heavy heart that I have to write it. My first visit was quite a while ago now, when a group of friends and I visited with little knowledge of the restaurant and few expectations. That meal had that ever so rare pleasure you get when you accidentally stumble across a gem. Starters, mains and dessert for all of our party were beautifully presented, petite and pretty, tender and tasty. We were served some of the best-cooked meat i've ever eaten on that occasion. I loved the place and despite my best efforts it's taken me over a year to return.
In a strange way I wish I hadn't revisited, as it's caused me somewhat to question my memory of a meal, and like Descartes before me, it led me to question everything I know about the relationship between knowledge and the senses. If my first meal had so overwhelmed me that I sang it's praises to everyone I met, then how come on my second visit, could I find that I got it so wrong? I was overcome with crisis, torn apart by self-doubt and plagued with suicidal thoughts towards my blog. Thankfully, after spilling my heart out to the misses in a flood of tears, she told me to stop being such a tosser, and that the restaurant was probably just having a bad night.
She should know as she was with me on both occasions, has a far better palate, and isn't as prone to melodrama as I am.
We went along on a Saturday night and were pleased to see the place was busy. We were lucky enough to be seated next to the window, so we could laugh at the people struggling through the rain outside, but unfortunately the table for two they gave us would barely accommodate one. This was silly, as Patagonia doesn't seem to lack the floor space to make the tables that little bit bigger. Granted the restaurant isn't the biggest place, but a slight re-jig would work wonders.
For starters I ordered a smoked eel and pork agnalotto (I wanted the tuna belly confit, but someone more fortunate must have already eaten it all). It looked fantastic surrounded with an applesauce, but the bowl it was served in forced my wrists into some awkward positions as I tried to attack it from some obtuse angles. The first few bites were heaven, but it did start to taste a bit like baby food and I was quite relieved when I finished it.
The misses had ordered the beetroot risotto and I’m sure the kitchen was short on salt that night as it was the first of our under seasoned dishes. It again looked lovely but it's beauty belied it's bland, flavourless eating.
For mains we both decided on the duck, but since I’m writing the blog and she wouldn't budge I was forced to opt for the venison. I didn't mind so much as my head was still awash with thoughts of the meat we'd eaten on our last visit, but once again I felt let down. The meat was cooked to the degree I like, but was fibrous, slightly tough and again lacking salt. The mashed potato that it came with thankfully wasn't under seasoned and had been beaten into a rich, smooth puree .I could happily have eaten my own substantial body weight of it.
Onto her duck. A large breast was again plated beautifully, although lacking an accompaniment of deep-fried confit leg ravioli, which the kitchen had promised. They realised they're mistake just as we realised it was missing, so all credit to them, but strangely the ravioli was more reminiscent of Cornwall than Italy. The deep-frying had given it the strange quality of a Ginsters pasty and was a bit disappointing. The duck breast was well cooked but again no-where near the heady heights we remembered, and would have benefited from a thicker sauce. The pan juices it was served with were just too weak for a meat that goes so well with the sort of sauce that sticks to the top of your mouth.
After a nice bottle of wine we were ready to leave, so avoided dessert as nothing on offer sounded particularly appealing and ordered the bill.
I left with a heavy heart, but not because our meal was bad. If this second visit had been our first, then I would still be singing the praises of Patagonia, because the cooking is great, and the service excellent. The under seasoned food let it down more than anything, and although it caused me a crises of conscience, I’m still keen to return.