The spore is on the wind tonight
You won't feel it till it grows
When my friends Sam and Scott (of more Michelin *** than hot dinners fame) invited me along to Wild Honey, a new restaurant from the people behind the critically acclaimed Arbutus in Soho I was hesitant about accepting. I’d visited Arbutus a couple of times and not been overly impressed. The excitement surrounding the restaurant seemed to be down to the fact that a) it was cheap and b) used some unusual ingredients. On my two visits I find found everything tasted a bit muted and my reaction to the whole experience was just a big shrug of the shoulders.
Wild Honey is located on the site of the old unmissed Drones Club (Drones, Wild Honey geddit ?). It’s an attractive room. All the original the panelling and wooden floors have been kept giving it a masculine, clubby, NY sort of feel. There was a 50% discount when we visited so we took advantage of the offer and ordered two starters (but of course we did). Chef sent up an extra starter of thinly sliced Tete de Veau. This was pretty good and almost up there with Magadalen’s version which uses Pig. The peppery watercress matched the meat well but a sauce gribiche didn’t really provide the necessary counterpoint. Something like a pickled cabbage may have been a better match. But a good start nonetheless.
A little pot of Corned Beef with a dice of green vegetables looked the business and just about hit the spot although it was a bit lacking in seasoning. A dish of Pollock gnocchetti, tomato and anchovy offered up firm chunks of fish, pasta and a sauce somewhere from the South of France. My second dish of Wild Rabbit and Foie Gras boudin blanc with broad beans and peas in a summer savoury sauce looked good but the flavours were far too subtle – the game and offal components didn’t punch their weight. A bit of a “ladies who lunch” dish. The Braised Pigs Head should have been the star of this round of dishes but from my one taste it seemed a bit one-note and tasted too ‘stewed’. Much better was Scott’s Soupe au pistou which was a taste of summer (as it should be).
My Lamb main course wasn’t bad. Larry came in two forms: rolled, stuffed breast (a dish my Nan excelled at) and piece of rump (my particular predilection). The accompanying rice and courgette combo looked a bit messy but tasted fine. The roasted tomato garnish added little save for some visual impact. My only quibble would be that this was decent gastropub cooking and I was hoping for something with a bit more refinement, something a bit more accurately cooked, a bit more of a wow factor. However, you then look at the prices and see that even at full price the dish is only £14.95. And that’s in Mayfair. It’s a bit of an odd one. From a brief taste of the other dishes the steak looked perfectly cooked but strangely had little taste and no char on the outside (although it looked as though it had). The soup of the bouillabaisse tasted good but the fish component (grey mullet, I think) looked overcooked and not the most appetising piece of fish I’ve seen.
I’d probably had enough by this stage but there was ice cream to be eaten. Unfortunately the big glass of a tough Madiran I’d just quaffed killed my taste buds pretty efectively so the subtle taste of La Fromagerie’s Wild Honey was completely lost on me. As Fleetwood Mac once said “Oh Well”.
So then, an improvement on Arbutus but are the prices too low thus reigning in the kitchen ? I would say yes. But, as Anthony Demetre told us, London is an extremely price sensitive town so he’s kept the keen pricing of the sibling restaurant. It seems to be paying dividends. A year on Arbutus is turning over a few million and by the time I left Wild Honey the place was packed. And filled with the great and good of Mayfair no less. That is, in the end, why I just eat out and Mr. Demetre is the owner of two successful restaurants. So what do I know, eh ?