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

Tuesday, June 03, 2008


It's a total biosphere
The farm in the back

Everything I know is wrong.

My culinary adventures or rather expectations have been rather overturned over the past couple of months. I had Gordon Ramsay down as never putting a foot wrong with his restaurants and then going to two in a row (The Warrington and Maze Grill) which although not bad hardly set my pulses racing – more just a big shrug of the shoulders really. Mark Hix does great british food ? Not at the Oyster and Chop House he doesn’t. The Martin Bros are purveyors of blah gastropubs. Right ? Wrong. They’ve just come up with a corker in The Botanist in Sloane Square.

In a similar vein although I thought Barrafina was ok - mainly because Nieves Barragan keeps it more Spanish than it would otherwise be – I found it expensive and didn’t like the self-congratulatory meeja babble and OTT reactions to the place. But then the Hart Brothers go and open Quo Vadis on Dean Street and blow me down if it wasn’t a real gem of a restaurant.

The place has only been open a day but apart from the smell of newly upholstered leather banquettes I felt like I’ve been coming here for years so assured were the cooking and service. The latter in no small part due to restaurant manager Nikki Barltrop, previously with GRH, who was keeping an eagle eye on everything. Boy, could they do with someone like her at Hix Oyster and Chop House.

The interior’s great as well. Those stained glass windows are still there (I’d only been on this side of them once, about twenty years ago), there’s plenty of wood and napery, Riedel glasses, a bit of art on the walls. But everything is nicely restrained, it doesn’t shout at you but just feels like the sort of place you’d want to spend some several hours in. Which is what I did.

The chef, Jean Philippe Patruno, has been brought in from the Hart’s other restaurant Fino and having someone you know and who knows what they’re doing in the kitchen has paid dividends as the food is terrific.

A word first about the butter. It’s from Lincolnshire and has that slight cheesiness and saltiness of the best stuff. The homemade bread is good too but you’ll want to order more just to get your choppers round some more of that butter.

Razor Clams were four big meaty buggers who’d must have put up a hell of a struggle until quite recently. They were cooked in the Spanish style, a la plancha, with lots of parsley, oil and garlic. As good, if not better than I’ve had in Spain.

There was a similar Iberian treatment of Baby Dover Sole which was accurately cooked and simply served with some lemon. The latter swaddled in muslin which always earns bonus points from HS.

I wanted to try the Beef Rib but I’m a bit of a lightweight these days and when I found out its fighting weight was over a kilo I wimped out and chose some Veal Sweetbreads. In no way the lesser option however, the two big glands were the best sweetbreads I’d had for ages – probably since being treated to a birthday meal at Foliage seven years ago. I’m guessing but I think they’d just been cooked in plenty of butter and herbs until just done. They were had a crisp but not oily covering and were creamy and melting within. There was a fresh creamy Tartar sauce on the side which came on more like a tart béarnaise, which was lucky because it went very well with the chips.

To call them chips is really doing the kitchen a bit of a disservice because these were uber-chips. Very crisp on the outside but light and fluffy on the inside these triple-cooked beauties are the sort of chip that would kick sand in the faces of lesser chips. They were, as we say in East London, very “tasty”.

Ice Cream (what else) for dessert wasn’t up to the standards of the stuff I’d had at L’Anima last week but then they are Italians so it’s in their, er, blood.

As is usual these days with upmarket new openings this experience doesn’t come cheap but to be frank I don’t mind so long as I have a good time and the combination of excellent raw materials, careful cooking, spot-on service and overall attention to detail all contributed to one very contented Hermano rolling out the door.

Everything I know is wrong but, you know what, I don’t care.

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Blogger Chris Pople said...

Sounds fantastic. I'm a huge Dover Sole meuniere fan - the one at Scott's is to die for too. And agreed on Foliage's sweetbreads - I don't know how they get them so much better than everywhere else, but they do.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008 1:06:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...

The sole was actually a baby one but none the worse for it. Although it's touted as an English restaurant the first two dishes wouldn't have been out of place in a Spanish place.

The sweetbreads were my favourite though. Expensive but worth every penny.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008 6:47:00 pm  

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