[UPDATE: 2021-12-28: This restaurant is permanently closed]
In the beginning of May, my godparents, Titus and Flora, from Melbourne sent me an e-mail saying that they would be in London at the end of the month and asked me to book a few restaurants for them. As Titus loves his food and he like searching out for good food; while Flora has only got a small appetite, I had to be careful on the choices. Texture seemed to fit the criteria as I remember from my visit in the summer of 2010 that the meal was not heavy due to the lack of the use of butter or cream in the cooking, and the cooking was exceptional. Luck was on my side also as I managed to secure a table for the Friday evening before the long weekend.
After we settled down at our table, it took us ages to decide what to have. We were debating between the tasting menu and the Scandinavian fish tasting menu first – the former had quail and beef which Flora couldn’t eat, so she was veering towards the fish tasting menu; while Titus was happy with the normal tasting menu. For me, I was actually quite happy with either menus and also a la carte, but I guess the elders always thought that the younger generation (ie me in this case) could eat a lot! Ideally we would have liked to have a mixture of the two tasting menus but the restaurant manager told us that due to the “complexity” of the dishes, the whole table had to take the same tasting menu. Then we spent another ten minutes debating on the a la carte, and finally settled on the Scandinavian fish tasting menu!
The nibbles came soon after we got our aperitifs – a mixture of crisps. The one that got Titus talking was the cod skin crisp, as he didn’t expect to see this in a Western restaurant – and he started telling me about the use of fish skin in various Chinese congees. It didn’t take us long before we finished the whole plate of crisps.
The appetiser was pea mousse and mint “snow” with prawns. It was a very refreshing dish – each mouthful was a delight, with a contrast of the texture of the various ingredients, and the explosion of flavours in the mouth. A very effective palate cleanser.
The next course was smoked organic salmon (graflax) with horseradish. The salmon was lightly cooked and the flesh was still firm, contrasting well with the soft mousse and the crisp bread that accompanied the dish. It was a very promising start, and Titus was already happy.
The next dish was roasted scallops with white asparagus, passion fruit and söl. Another dish that tasted as beautiful as it looked – the scallops were fresh and cooked through nicely, and the use of passion fruit and vinegar lifted the flavour out well. Söl (dulse seaweed) gave the extra interesting dimension to this dish. Another dish that we all enjoyed that we could have easily had second helpings!
The main fish dish was Cornish skate with cod brandade, lemon, radish and garlic oil. There was a generous serving of fish on this dish, and once again the fish was fresh and perfectly cooked. I love brandade, and this went well with the rest of the dish. Titus was somewhat surprised by the high quality here, and I explained that not many London restaurants (even the seafood ones) could cook fish to this standard.
Pre-dessert was sorrel sorbet with muscadet mousse – another very refreshing and effective palate cleanser. It was so nice that Titus said that he could easily have had four of these!
The dessert was something I was not so keen on when I saw the menu – Valrhona white chocolate mousse, ice-cream with dill and cucumber. Not being a big fan of white chocolate, I thought I’d struggle even when it’s Valrhona chocolate, as many restaurants ended up with very sweet white chocolate desserts. So I was pleasantly surprised when the dessert not only looked nice, but tasted absolutely wonderful, without being too sweet. The various textures of the ingredients (from the silky softness of the foam, to the soft mousse, moving to the slightly harder ice-cream and cucumber cubes, all the way to the sprinkling of the nuts on the plate) worked so well together – it was a perfect way to end the meal.
On the whole the meal was just how I remembered it from last year – the ingredients were of a high quality and the cooking was beautifully executed, and the meal was filling but light. The lack of use of butter and cream-based sauces really helped in letting the ingredients speak for themselves. This was the exact reason why my godparents and I enjoyed the meal so much – there’s nothing that beat fresh ingredients, rather than disguising the inferior quality food in some heavy sauces.
Address: 34 Portman Street, London, W1H 7BY, United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0)20 7224 0028
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Saturday: Lunch 12:00-14:30 ; Dinner 18:30-23:00
Total: 17/20 [Based on visit in May 2011]