(Visited: December 2012)
Low flying in a sense, being below the radar of most gourmets (but not us: see our previous visit), yet this one flies in the high skies when it comes to quality, and at lunch, to value: out of an infernal x-mas shopping and tourist crowd, only eight had the sense of stepping in for the terrific value lunch of petits plats (at the time of writing £22 for two, £28 for three… guess how the series continues?).
Since everything looked desperately appealing, seafood was the guiding light for choosing lunch. Beautiful classical technique and skill in presentation ooze out of every dish: this Fjord farm sea trout which comes at some point in the meal
marks a peak, it’s not only a chromatic beauty, it is also roasted in an exemplary way, the clementine beurre blanc a microcosm of delicious acidity, the butternut squash, almond and vanilla oil adding layers of flavour. This piece of fish does honour to proper fish farming, and makes us forgive chef Pascal (as he likes to be called on the menu) for calling everything ‘sustainable‘ instead of farmed: when quality is this high, there is no shame in the word.
A haddock was sustainable, no doubt, but more importantly was drowned in a velvety and savoury /sweet whisky spiced soup missing perfection by a whisker, lacking that ultimate punch:
The slow cooked egg, once broken, created the effect you can easily imagine, adding to the lusciousness of it all.
The room feels a little like a boat. One sails in luxury class here, despite the affordability of what’s on the table. Great sauce making ability is once again front stage in these scallops (the salty pata negra…such a culinary cliche’ well deserves a linguistic cliche’: it IS a marriage made in Heaven with the scallops!)
The chestnut soup with the ‘jus gras de poisson acidule’ (doesn’t this sound poetic?) was so mighty and lovely that even on its own it would have been a a faultless, impressive dish.
A pity that the grilling that imparted a ravishing smokiness to this turbot (yes, even turbot can be sustainable) also ever so slightly overcooked and dried it:
Quibbling, really: the risotto was creamy, sweet-sea infused, and together with the cuttlefish tagliatelle and the persillade (read: parsley) Pernod cream it created a stunning ensemble.
One can explain the lack of customers with the slightly cold, boat-hotel feel, and, let’s face it, with the lack of a service that beside formal politeness is capable of conveying any kind of enthusiasm (why don’t they use robots instead? Sustainable, of course). What is inexplicable is the absence of more recognition, from Michelin all the more so given the classical French bent of the cuisine. With ingredients of this quality -and remember that the vicious and cruel, i.e. non-sustainable, a la carte menu reaps the sea of its finest wild delicacies, principles die after dusk, obviously- and with cooking of this order, this experience is a splendid demonstration that you don’t need to be filthy rich to enjoy fine cuisine in a fine room in a luxury area of London. But we cannot not ask the question: is all this sustainable?