New addition to London as of 2019 from alumni Fat Duck chef, Jonny Lake
This is an exciting opening for London, with Jonny Lake as head chef and sommelier Isa Bel, both formerly of The Fat Duck leading this new, venture together. The summary is that the restaurant has been designed beautifully (visually and in full, feng shui allegiance) with dishes that were carefully executed and with an originally decent wine list. It’s always a good sign if you leave knowing you are happy to go back, which is the case here and will probably opt for the bar menu with a glass of something next time as they cater for this very well too. No real complaints here, I was genuinely happy with this first visit and will not be the last. Full details of the food, wine and service at the ‘full review’ button below.
The first thing that struck me here was the first-class service. Because there is so much average and poor service out there, and specifically I mean non-sincerity displayed or badgering of the guest/diner at the wrong time, interrupting tables badly or reluctance to catch eye contact etc, it is a genuine delight when you are in the hands of real experts. This was immediately clear to me as the head sommelier welcomed me at the bar and applied no pressure for choices and with a smile retreated and offered help if I needed it – simple and world-class care which reminded me of the pinnacle of this ability shown by Diego Masciaga, formerly of The Waterside Inn.
The menu itself is just one a la carte option with no tasting menu or set lunch options, with prices averaging £18, mains averaging £34 and desserts averaging £14 which, is a fair uplift from the norm, even in the average of Michelin starred venues within London. The wine list itself is nicely presented and chooses to show wines from around the world in chronological order of wine’s inception on earth, starting with wines Georgian, Armenian and Turkish wines dating back to 7000 BC and followed by the Israelites, Syrians and Lebanese from 4000 BC and so on. It was nice to see that the UK has been cultivating its own wine just as long as France and other notable European countries developing theirs from 700 BC onwards. I was in the best of hands sat with Tom ‘Winechap‘ Harrow as my guest for this lunch who steered the selection of our wines by the glass to accompany our dishes.
Bread was from Coombeshead Farm in Devon (a long way to get your bread but was good sourdough with a pleasing level of acidity and crunch from the crust, so worth doing) and homemade butter. First starter chosen was a ‘puffini’ and with caviar, sour cream, onion mousse, pea mousse and mirin sabayon (made with rice wine). Incidentally, ‘puffini’ is a made-up word essentially meaning a form of panini, so to those new to elaborate meus, please don’t be freaked out by things that don’t make any sense – sometimes they genuinely have none! Although a surprise to me that the pastry was cold, the texture was delicate and enjoyable, with the caviar and tangy sabayon working nicely together with the puffini.
The second starter was veal sweetbreads with king oyster mushrooms, fermented blueberries, blackcurrant sauce and cumin. The sweetbreads were just right with the subtle crispy exterior and damp inside with good flavour, the acidity and sweetness in the fruits doing their job nicely of balancing the dish. The whites chosen to go with both of these were a glass of 2017 Artemis Karamolegos Winery, Santorini Assyrtiko, Aidani (Greek) and an orange 2018 Marjan Simcic, Pinot Grigio (Slovenian) which, as you would expect went very well. It was lovely to see wines from regions other than France and the New World on the list, as rather like clothing labels, one tends to find some really lovely options for a fraction of the price of their famous counterparts, when away from the big-hitting labels.
First main was chicken breast, shallots, turnips and splendid vinegared jus to go with the chicken. This was a sumptuous dish with simplicity done well. The other dish was a new dish on the menu: duck breast and confit leg from Devon, with fermented melon, puffed rice, Swiss chard and miso braised cabbage. The parts on the plate all worked well but the only thing I struggled with slightly was the main part and actually getting through the duck breast. It was a generous portion and justified the price tag, but ultimately was rubbery in texture and a fraction under how I would prefer – the perfect example of duck for me springs out immediately at Le Champignon Sauvage. Not a huge biggie, but I would say using thinner slices here and making a touch more cooked including the rendered fat would be a good move (again, I cannot help think of the duck a la presse presentation recently had at The Ritz to expand on my thoughts here).
Red wine by the glass were enjoyed at this point for the mains and these included a very mature 2011 Domaine Tatsis, Goumenissa (from Greece) and a sharper but fruitier 2016 Pendore Kavaklidere, öküzgözü (Turkish) which was just the ticket to go mainly with the duck.
Desserts included an innovative Mille Feuille made with Hakaido (North Japanese) potato. Layers of caramelised potato, pink peppercorn and white chocolate potato mousse lay within the pastry with a side of sake gelato. Top marks for originality and was fairly pleasant, but for all the effort, it did not make for any screaming of repeats needed. Next was a hazelnut fondant, with white coffee gelato coffee infused with white chocolate and served with hazelnut shavings on top. The actual lava inside was as lava-like as you would wish and decadent enough, all supported by a coffee ice cream. Pleasing is the word for both of these desserts. Coffee supplied by Kiss the Hippo in Richmond was accompanied by a lovely canele each (one of my favourite petit fours), although having a slightly bigger one would have meant less outside crunch to interior nectar ratio.
So that was the food and wine, but I almost forgot – the name of the restaurant itself refers to a triangular or rectangular, wooden kitchen implement to put hot pans on. Writing this immediately reminds me of my formidable cooking tutor making a special point of shouting out “TRIVET!!!” to any of her students forgetting to do so and endangering the integrity of the huge marble slabs the pots were heading for. Thankfully, I was free of that here and with a quality lunch all round. It won’t take a doctorate to work out the rough price of this meal based on all of the above, but as this was a treat for my guest, I would rather refrain from having this in the review as a hosting courtesy.
All in all this was very good lunch bar one aspect. The service and hospitality was superb throughout including our waitress who had also worked at The Fat Duck. The design of the dishes had clear skill on display and there was obvious ingredient control. Personally, I would have prefered a couple of tweaks, possibly a different main on reflection and for the price, I would have thought some canapes or amuse bouche wouldn’t be out of the question, but it is very early days for this restaurant and the meal was enough to have every wish to come back to. I will definitely be trying out some of the bar snack menu with another non-conventional wine on next visit.
Food Grade: 81%
Location (Click google logo for directions)