Much like Antonio Banderas, Masa Restaurant and Wine Bar has always intrigued me. I liken it to the exotic stranger whom I’ve heard lots about, but just haven’t got around to meeting yet. Masa boasts a unique location at the site of a chapel which has subtle undertones of Gothic romanticism. This could easily be the scene of some romantic novel (more on that later).
The foyer is cosy, lounge area spacious, and décor oddly mismatched in a cutesy manner. We were greeted by the efficient and smiley Vicky, and having ordered our drinks and food on the ground floor, were whisked upstairs and shown to our table.
It’s a lovely space over three perceptible layers and it’s easy to see why Masa is popular for weddings and special celebrations. We were seated on the balcony area looking down onto the ground floor bar, which was a very nice view. We kicked off with some canapés.
The Fish Mousse was airy and perfectly seasoned. The burst of caviar melded beautifully with the nutty, wafer-thin biscuit base and mini bread slices.
The Potato Velouté was unctuous, deliciously salty, garlicky and the perfect pot of steaming hot deliciousness.
The Mini Bread Buns (herb, chilli butter noisette) were a delight to look at. Served oven-warm (as any bread should be), tearing into them was one heck of a joy. They were pillowy soft, slightly yeasty and magnificent mini mounds of heaven. This is bread baked at its best. Hat tip to the chef for getting the baking spot on.
With the bar set so high in the first 10 minutes, I didn’t think Masa could get any better. Boy was I wrong (and I hate to be wrong).
The menus (both à la carte and evening) are compact yet diverse, offering dishes that pique interest and eventually enthral. I had a starter of Breaded Brie (served with mustard potato salad). The cheese was stunning in all its oozy, gooey glory, with a subtle hit of chalkiness on the swallow – just how I like it. (I loved the mustard mayo, so much so, I was inspired to try it at home for a brussels sprout recipe here.)
My dining partner had Scallops and White Chocolate (risotto, mascarpone, lemon). I was a little dubious of the white chocolate risotto. “Isn’t that a rice pudding?” I found myself asking my patient, intrigued boyfriend. I snaffled a forkful of the chocolaty risotto. Yes it was sweet, but I wasn’t whacked over the head with it. Fish and white chocolate, is really very good together. It takes a genius mind to think up flavour combinations – not the out and out brazen craziness of a certain Heston Blumenthal, but the subtle strokes of a cooking prodigy. The scallop was tender, fleshy and sweet, the perfect partner to the textured risotto.
For my main I had Pan-fried Turbot (parmesan gnocchi, oyster mushrooms, artichokes, samphire). The meaty fish was succulent, the mushrooms deliciously earthy, the cheesy gnocchi inspired (like mini potato cakes) and the artichoke puree the strikingly beautiful lovechild of creamy mashed potato and oven roasted parsnips.
My dining partner had the Trio of Rose Veal (Parma ham, morels, garlic, onion seed). The meat was moist and tender. The combination of honeycomb textured morels with salty ham, was sublime.
The side of Triple Cooked Chips was beautiful. These were “proper”, substantial enough not to eat dessert. But no dessert is tantamount to blasphemy… right? At the fear of pulling a Bruce Banner and busting out of my dress seams, I ordered the White Chocolate Fondant (popcorn ice-cream) dessert. The sponge wrapped around the molten lake of chocolate was delicate yet firm to hold the dreamy, creamy sauce. The puddle of caramel sauce was beautiful to gawk at, the chocolate cigarillo a lean finger to deliver a deep chocolate hit. The popcorn ice-cream was marvellous. If I ate this ice-cream as part of my last supper, I would die with a massive smile on my lips. It was velvety, with a creamy sweetness which I couldn’t get enough of. And because I fell in love with the dessert, I have to post the photo twice.
There is some serious work going on behind the scenes at Masa. The team of chefs headed up by the extraordinary Matthew Gabbitas can do no wrong. A special shoutout to Emma, a knowledgeable superstar who looked after us on the evening, and Vicky for being the perfect host by the warm welcome we received downstairs.
About that romantic novel. I love Masa, especially the quaint entrance and interior bird’s eye view off the balcony. So much so, that I’ve decided to name-check this gorgeous restaurant and include Masa in my second novel (the Screaming Snowflakes saga slated for release in August 2016).
I foresee great things for Masa. If you haven’t been, check it out. I’d drive you there if I could. Not going would be blasphemy and a disservice to good food. When you leave, it will be with a massive smile on your face. Trust me.
Star Rating 1-10 (1: “I’d rather eat my own shoe, I hated it that much” – 10: “I’d pillage for a meal here”.)
Value for money: 10
Rate or Slate? Rate. I am still dreaming of that popcorn ice-cream. And turbot. And scallops. Heck, the whole menu.