"It's not much but it's ours"

Thursday, November 23, 2006


It may come as a surprise to many of you, but chef’s are people too. It would do us no harm at this time of year to remember that chefs while they may not think as quickly, feel as deeply and are certainly not to be taunted or pointed at in the street. OK, well some obviously are but not when they are looking, riding around on Vespas or advertising supermarkets.

I have, it would appear, come over all warm and fuzzy. Why? you may well ask. Well, it is that I have just come back from a very engaging supper at Acorn House that left me feeling all a glow. A supper that not only tasted damn good but left nary a carbon footprint on this battered old world of ours.

You see, Acorn House is predicated on eco warrior sensibilities and it pervades everything they do. So, you can eat like a pig and save the planet at the same time. Result.

The amiable and charming front of house, Michael, explained some of the concept to me while I looked at the menu. They track the carbon footprint of everything they cook. Chairs and tables etc do, I think, all come from recycled material. Food is seasonal and, where possible organic, they filter their own water, have a wormery on site ( er, that one threw me a bit but stay with me ) and grow as many herbs as possible on their roof terrace. As if to top the lot, Michael explained that they even collect their regular order from Borough Market in a van powered by vegetable oil.

Of course, none of this would count for a mound of organic flageolet if the food was not much cop. But, I am delighted to say that it is quite a lot of cop bordering, in fact, on a surfeit of cop.

The chefs are alumni of Fifteen ( boooo! ) and River Café ( How much!?) which brought to mind last week’s “ meal of the year” at Theo Randall’s. This is not quite at that level, but then again, neither is the cost.

The seasonal menu is split into four sections with soups ( at around £5) Starters ( around £8 ) Pastas ( around £9 ) and Mains ( £10-13 )

While I looked at the menu I sipped on a glass of apple and pear juice made at the bar about 10 seconds before being brought to the table. You don’t get much fresher than that without getting your face slapped.

The choice was hard but in the end I went for a starter of Dorset crab with grilled leeks, salsify and chives. A stunningly fresh combination and served well by the best bread I have eaten all year. Proper bread with a crunchy crust and which demanded to be slathered in butter and devoured. I had to ask them to take the basket away. The crab was not overpowered by the salsify as I anticipated. A winner of a dish

They made me a small portion of risotto to try as a mid course. The risotto was obviously made by someone who knows what the hell they are doing and was creamy and perfect. I was not so convinced by the combination of stilton and walnuts running through it which seemed odd. The blue of the cheese, particularly hit a duff note.

The wine list is short and sensibly priced and I stuck to their limited “ by the glass” list with a Pfalz Riesling with my first two courses

I needed something with more “thrutch” to it with my main course so went for a Montepulciano which had all the stops out. Just as well as my main course was as hearty as it comes.

All their meat is sourced from The Ginger Pig farms and it shows. There can be none better available in London right now. A huge portion of roast shoulder of mutton was hacked off the joint and then crisped up and served on top of creamy butternut squash, shredded cavolo nero and a tart quince and rosmary sauce. Hell, it was tasty but almost too much for someone of my delicate sensibilities to finish off.

Somehow, I managed to clean my plate, but could not even bear the thought of looking at the dessert menu. So, I am afraid I cannot tell you anything about it. Let’s guess shall we? Some chocolate something or other, some ice cream, probably a panna cotta etc etc. I am sure it is well done and they probably cost about a fiver.

During my meal, I had been engrossed in my book ( for the record, an eighth reading of Norman Mailer’s The Fight, the single greatest book on Sport ever written ) so did not really pay much attention to my bill when it came. I paid £39 including a well deserved 12.5% service charge. On closer observation later, I saw that they had comped me a couple of things so, perhaps it would have got closer to £45. In either case, well worth it.

I had a couple of posts recently chastising me for being so harsh on two restaurants that I visited just after they opened. Why? Acorn House has been open a week and a day and yet, despite its newborn status, it reeks of a smart set up that has been well thought out from the beginning.

If it were within spitting distance of me, I would be going there all the time. Oh wait, it is and I shall be.
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