While the music played you worked by candlelight
Those San Francisco nights
Well it had to happen. The Stout Yeoman school of cooking has finally made its way to the West of the capital. The alumni of St John have mostly based themselves in the East of the capital with an occasional foray into the swamp (South, Fish Club) and the West End (Gomorrah, Great Queen Street) but this is the first time the John Bull style of cooking has ended up in DH’s least favourite burb, Notting Hill. And goddammit but it’s one of the best places I’ve been to in recent weeks.
As usual I was too early for the opening: last minute touches, hoovering, rubbish to move but after a walk around the block and a very unpleasant trip to somewhere called the Elbow Room (expensive drinks and the smell of rancid fat) I was welcomed in as the first paying customer with several glasses of champagne and a plate of good meaty terrine, excellent terrine de foie gras and some lightly pickled chicory. This was food I would happily have paid for but I didn’t have to - so I liked the place already. I was expecting some downside but to be honest there wasn’t. Tom Pemberton is turning out some terrific food.
The first of my two starters proper: deep fried sand eels with aioli showed a light touch in the frying department and went well with a pugent aioli (a must-have for all you garlic-lovers out there). Grilled Lambs Tongues was a revelation. Usually a bit tasteless and of strange texture, this came as thickish slabs of the organ, perfectly grilled with a nice meaty taste and the slightest whisper of offal. The green bean accompaniment was good if lacking a bit in the promised anchovy component.
Veal chop was cooked well and had a good ratio of meat to fat although the taste wasn’t quite up to similar chops I’d had at StJ B&W. Still a decent hunk of meat and the Celeriac Dauphinoise that came with it was fantastic – I could have eaten a whole dish of it.
The Ox Tail merits a mention. Although down on the menu a dish for one, it is in fact a dish for two. This caught out a number of customers who found themselves with the whole tail, just for themselves. Lucky so-and-sos.
Desserts were mostly of the of the carby/sticky variety save the ice cream option I went for which had melted a bit but hit the spot completely.
For an opening night I thought the service was pretty good and there was an air of people enjoying themselves even though the denizens of NH seemed a bit non-plussed with the lingua franca of new English dining (“What’s Mallard ?”). For this level of cooking the prices are absurdly reasonable, yet another reason to visit ASAP and get a taste of what people in the real part of London have been enjoying for several years.