Friday, December 9, 2016

Restaurant Review; Kaspars at the Savoy and Dreamgirls

Dreamgirls is one of the best musicals I've ever seen and you really must see it if you get the chance! Starring Amber Riley, best known as the wonderful Mercedes from Glee (yes, I'm a fan), it opened a couple of weeks ago in London's West End. I bought tickets literally the minute they went on sale at the beginning of this year and managed to get two seats in the third row for last Saturday night.

I took my mother-in-law, as she loved the Dreamgirls movie and really likes gospel music, and we had a fantastic time. The musical doesn't really deviate from the film so there are not really any surprises (unlike Legally Blonde, one of my other favourites - as the film isn't a musical, the way it was done in the West End was brilliant). But it's such a good film with fantastic songs, I knew the stage show was going to be good.

But it is so far beyond good - I'm not normally one for hyperbole (in fact an old boss used to tell me my writing was too dry) but I can't say enough good things about Dreamgirls. Amber Riley steals the show - her powerhouse voice that you might be familiar with in Glee is even more astounding in real life, especially when you are only three rows from the front and can see the emotion she puts into every song. The actress who plays Deena Jones - Beyoncé's role in the film - was also outstanding. I hadn't come across Liisi Lafontaine before but she is an experienced musical theatre performer and the duet she does towards the end with Amber Riley makes your hair stand on end.

As as aside, I discovered from the cast list and Wikipedia that Lafontaine's father is the voiceover legend Don Lafontaine, who you probably won't have heard of, but you will have heard him boom 'In a world where....' at the start of many movie trailers!

So to sum up: the choreography is fantastic, the costumes dazzling (often literally), the male leads hold their own and are very good but really this is a show about the women - Deena and Effie - and I don't think there could have been anyone in line for casting as Effie other than Amber Riley. She received more than one standing ovation (after her signature song, 'I am telling you I'm not going' and of course at the end) which was well deserved. I hope Lafontaine does really well from the back of this as well as she was fantastic.

To go on to what I was actually going to write about, here's my review of Kaspar's at the Savoy. It was a rare treat to go somewhere so fancy, but my mother-in-law and I decided to make a night of it, get dressed up and have a lovely meal - the fact that the theatre was next door also helped!

From the moment you set foot through the revolving doors the magic begins with a tall and beautifully decorated Christmas tree. We walked through the foyer where a few people were still enjoying afternoon tea and entered the restaurant. The best description I can give is from the website itself:

Cut-glass mirroring and bright brass railings, silver leaf ceiling and chequer-board marble floor frame a central circular bar flanked by Murano glass columns and pendant glass light fittings to crown Kaspar’s theatrical style.

It was gorgeous and the service excellent as you might expect - and the portions small as you might also expect! The menu is very expensive - eg Dover sole for £39, a rack of lamb for £31, caviar and oysters - but the restaurant does a pre-theatre menu for a very reasonable £25 for two courses or £28 for three.

I started with a Kaspar's martini which was very strong - I didn't quite understand what was meant by a "spray of vermouth" but it was pretty much just neat vodka!

Guinea fowl ballotine - a sort of terrine - was my choice of starter, which came with truffle quince jam, lamb's lettuce and hazelnuts which was very tasty and beautifully presented. For my main course, I had pan-seared stone bass with chantenay carrot textures, charred leeks and tarragon nage. I Your guess is as good as mine!


The fish was a small fillet (no bones at all); the carrot was in ribbons and I think also a smear across the plate, unless this was the nage. I actually mis-read it as sage, but according to the internet, a nage is a flavoured liquid used for poaching delicate foods, typically seafood. So I've learnt something! I also had a side of potatoes which brought an extra charge of £5 (a bit cheeky I think) - the meal was really good and more filling than I expected, though that was probably down to the potatoes.

Finally we decided to have dessert and my wine plum tart was interesting - sweet but also a bit sharp at the same time. The base was almost biscuit-y and the plum quite tart (literally); the shortbread and vanilla ice cream it came with was really good but the promised cardamom marshmallow was so tiny - a few dots around the plate - that I almost missed it!

It was a great meal and a great experience and combined with the musical it was one of the best nights out I've had in ages!


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