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Saturday, 22 November 2014

Spring

Dad The List : Guest Post – For the sixth of these occasional postings, Matt suggested that I report on ‘the main London opening of the autumn’ - Spring, in the old Inland Revenue offices in Somerset House.  Spring in autumn?  Probably an indication of a new beginning after Skye Gyngell’s much publicised assertion that the Michelin star, awarded in 2011 to her Petersham Nurseries restaurant gave diners false expectations.

Skye Gyngell

The restaurant is light and airy, decorated in pastel colours with huge white pillars breaking up the dining area – a very pleasant space for a relaxing meal, served by a friendly waiter dressed as a matelot.  As with Rivea, much thought has gone into the staff uniforms.  Some of the women glide around like Carthusian nuns or matrons in their white cloaks.

Skye Gyngell's Spring

A Carthusian Nun

It was so peaceful that, had there not been a meal to consume, one might have nodded off to sleep.

First, a gold star for the better of two pulped juices – Granny Smith and pistachio.  At about a quarter of the price of a Fera mocktail, this was one of the best ever.  The other (passion fruit and tarragon) was a less successful combination, though still fresh and interesting.

Eating from the à la carte, the main ingredients of the first two courses couldn’t be faulted for taste or quality.  Both the deep fried anchovies and the scallops were cooked to perfection. There were at least a dozen of the latter, which were plump and contained their roe (quite rare in restaurants).  I completely understand that the top chefs are using different ingredients dependent on what is fresh and available on any given day, but I suspect I would have preferred the scallops with salsify and beurre blanc praised by earlier reviewers.

Observant readers of these postings will know that, like the late Robert Morley, I tend to judge all meals on the strength of their puddings. Ten out of ten for the meringue, miyagawa sorbet, candied ginger and Jersey cream.  The white meringue nest looked very boring, but was nothing of the sort – it was strongly flavoured with ginger, filled with cream, a lemon shaped sorbet perched on top, with candied ginger scattered around. A miyagawa?  It’s a particularly delicious type of satsuma.

Robert Morley after a good lunch

Meringues with chestnut puree and jersey cream

I will conclude this post with a quick run through of other recommended restaurants I have visited recently.

Primeur in Stoke Newington is a converted garage and was difficult to park near at lunchtime but well worth the effort of finding a space in Green Lanes.  There is only ‘face to face’ booking so go at 12 p.m. on a Friday, Saturday Sunday (or any evening except Monday) and watch it fill up with eager regulars.  The menu changes daily and is displayed on a large blackboard.  There is a large communal table and a few other small tables.  The service was friendly and the food was superb.



Primeur - Photo Credit : Mark Whitfield
Bravas Tapas is (I am assured by a resident mariner) the best restaurant in St Katharine Docks. Tapas such as crispy foie gras stuffed quail and oyster fritura with sherry and toasted almonds (though approach the very salty wild spinach with care!) are among its signature dishes, and its torta de Santiago hits the spot.

Bravas Tapas

Chez Elles Bistroquet in Brick Lane is a real find.  A typical Parisian bistro run by the delightful Nadia and Aurélie,  Somewhere to return to again and again, not just for the food but for the décor and the friendly service. As a quick taste, see the write-up of a fellow blogger here.



Hereford Road is already listed by me as one of the best value lunches in London. Not a converted garage but originally a Victorian butcher’s shop.  If I say ‘nose to tail’, you won’t be surprised to hear that Tom Pemberton was previously the head chef of St John Bread and Wine.

Tom Pemberton
Hereford Road

In conclusion, I wish to endorse two outlets in Bermondsey already described by Matt here. The honeycombs from the London Honey Company at 88 Bermondsey Street (and elsewhere) are wonderful.  Of the two heather and one borage I have tried, my favourite was a dark heather. And the beautiful jams from England Preserves at Spa Road.  Try the redcurrant, rhubarb and vanilla – other flavours include quetsche (a plum I first tasted in Alsace) and crab apple.  Try also the strawberry and vanilla at Honey & Co.

Borage honey blob from London Honey Company

And my current recommended UK restaurants (in no particular order) - Sat Bains, Fera, Drake’s, Dabbous, Kitchen Table, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, St John, The Hand & Flowers, Club Gascon, Honey & Co, Polpetto, The Dairy, Trinity, Corner Room, Barnyard, Hereford Road.

Spring at Somerset House on Urbanspoon

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