Texas Round-Up

Loving the travel but getting much worse at jet-lag. Seriously, if it wasn't for bags of stuff from the lovely people at Monmouth and a comfortable sofa, I'd be a mess. Well, more of a mess than I am. I really thought I'd beaten the time difference thing, even with the challenge of a 10 hour red eye flight, scheduled with sadistic perfection to be just too early to be tired on Texan time and then switch suddenly to hours of the morning, UK time, that only milkmen, farmers and insomniacs know exist.

But I hadn't and, bizarrely, four days of good sleep patterns don't appear to have kick-started my body clock either. Never mind. The bottom line is it was worth any hassles or occasional moments of grouchiness. Mind you, my mood was seriously tested by an e mail from the charming Duncan, the English MD of The Mansion on Turtle Creek, our last Dallas hotel stop, saying that the (record-breaking) snow and minus temperatures we experienced have been replaced by blue skies, sunshine and 60 degrees. Oh my how we laughed on receiving that bit of news...

To be honest, while the weather stopped a couple of planned touristy things - sorry Dallas Aquarium, sorry Nasher Sculpture Center - it was rather nice to just enjoy the hotel and not wander too far. As for the cold, that was seen off with a fantastically feisty plate of Huevos Rancheros (a genuine breakfast of champions) and a classic Texan breakfast of biscuits and sausage gravy. We were also rather taken with the ickle bottle of Tabasco nestled in the condiments.

Those winter warmers topped up the satisfaction levels of the night before and a full dinner at The Mansion restaurant. The restaurant used to be the culinary home of Dean Fearing but is now under the supervision of Bruno Davaillon, a former Koffman underling and Ducasse executive chef. It was then, as you might expect, rather good.

There was a sense that it's still a work in progress - the halibut could have done with a little more oomph from the chorizo crust and maybe 30 seconds less cooking, the lamb could have done with maybe 30 seconds more - but it seemed churlish to grumble as the quality of the ingredients was obvious and the preceding course(s) were immaculate. Seared scallop, brandade ravioli was one of those rich, fishy moments of comfort but beaten - "I've got plate envy," declared Mrs L - by the divine foie gras, roasted quail and pear saffron marmalade. Both though were edged out by the silky, truffle-rich gnocchi with artichoke ragout.

We were also rather taken with the presentation and execution of the ice cream finale: nine intense home made scoops ranging from the lightness of lemon (as ice cream rather than sorbet) to my favourite, a caramel that was just the right side of that "burnt" flavour. The "Texas Sugar Cookie" in the shape of a cactus was also rather cute.

Bruno's only been in the kitchen for three months. I suspect that before his anniversary rolls around, The Mansion is going to be one of Dallas', if not America's, best.


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