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A very Scandi trick

Ed Cumming enjoys an Icelandic chef’s game bird with popcorn at Texture, London

Ed Cumming | January/February 2014

“Would you like to see the menu, sir?”

“No, thank you. We're only here for one dish.”

“The Anjou quail?”

Perhaps we're not the first people to have had this idea. Word of Texture's signature game-bird starterwhich changes with the seasons, quail in summer, pigeon in winterhas spread far beyond London since it opened in 2007. The chef, Agnar Sverrisson, is from Iceland, and both restaurant and dish pull off a very Scandi trick: they look simple, but are in fact elegantly, unfussily complex.

It's a small space, with many layers. From the bar you can see through into the dining room, and beyond into the kitchen. Paintings of volcanoes spewing lava echo arrangements of tree branches splayed on top of the bar, themselves quotations of bonsai trees on each table. The dish is also a lattice of winks and nudges. Quail is a sensitive bird, and its flavour bolts easily, but here it is treated with every care. Two legs are dark and gamey, the bones sticking out like lollipop sticks, while the breast is two cheerful chunks of rosy pink flesh in a drift of puréed corn, with tart slices of shallot alongside. The surprise star, however, is roasted sweetcorn, which undercuts the other flavours with a sweet, fresh crunch. To complete the effect, three crisp little clouds of popcorn sit around the edge of the plate: a third texture of corn, flavoured with bacon. In a Venn diagram of flavour, with meat on one side and corn on the other, bacon popcorn sits in the middlea childish ingredient used in a swaggeringly adult manner. Anjou might be a town in the Loire valley, but this bird could hardly be more deliciously Scandinavian.  ~ Ed Cumming

Anjou quail, £16.90; texture-restaurant.co.uk

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