Medlar – under the influence

Anyone who has read our blog knows how much we appreciate Chez Bruce and the other restaurants in the Nigel Platts-Martin stable. The Medlar in Chelsea although not directly connected with that group of restaurants, is certainly influenced by them. The head chef Joe Mercer Nairne used to work at Chez Bruce and his business partner David O’Connor also managed front of house at Chez Bruce, The Ledbury and The Square.  So it was no surprise that we found that the menu and the service style was reminiscent of these restaurants.

I started with a lovely dish, Crab raviolo with samphire, brown shrimps, fondue of leeks and bisque sauce. This was matched with a glass of Domaine des Baumard Savennières Clos St Yves 2007, a beautifully smooth fresh tasting wine that I could so easily have consumed by the bottle. My companion was not so enamored by the Lambs Tongue and Lentil salad which was rather dominated by the lentils, he did however very much enjoy the matching wine, a glass of  Egri Bikaver, Bolyki a smooth light red wine from Hungary.

For main course I had Cornish brill with Jerusalem artichoke purée, braised chicken wings, crisp pancetta and salsify, which was another good choice, this was matched with a Marlborough Pinor Noir. My companion also had a rather nice fish dish. The Roast cod with a ragoût of mussels, pieds de mouton and charlotte potatoes. It went well with a glass of Chardonnay, Kooyong “Clonale”.

The wines were selected by Clement Robert the UK young sommelier of the year 2010 and were uniformly excellent.

We knew we could not manage to squeeze in a cheese course, so went straight to dessert instead.  I had a rather good Chocolate tart with pistachio ice cream and my companion had the Almond panna cotta with PX, poached pear and ricciarelli. He really liked the panna cotta part of the dessert, but did not feel that it particularly went with the other elements.

The dress code here is fairly casual, although we did spot one chap who I am sure is on a fashion police wanted poster (there is a certain shade of pink that should only be worn by 5 year old girls).  The customers are very much the Chelsea set. We would not have been at all surprised to see the crew from that dire show “Made in Chelsea” swanning in.

The food at the Medlar is good, we enjoyed everything we ate, although the wine did rather eclipse a couple of the dishes. It’s not going to replace Chez Bruce as a favourite, but it’s pretty good for Chelsea.

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Sketch – in a world of its own

A visit to Sketch is certainly an interesting and rather OTT experience.  I felt rather like a kid with a golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.  As you enter the building you have the Parlour on your right, where you can order an indulgent Breakfast, Afternoon Tea, Comfort food and Cocktails.  The rather low key Parlour is in stark contrast to Pierre Gagnaire’s Michelin stared restaurant in the Lecture Room. The name of the restaurant does not really conjure up what is revealed after you are escorted up the exotically lit staircase. The doors are dramatically thrown open and you find yourself in a jewel box like room, decorated with a red, orange, blue and gold palette.

My companion had brought his camera but had forgotten his SD card, so was annoyed that in such a photogenic environment we were not going to do the place justice, but by using our phones we managed to get a few shots of the experience.

The first hurdle is the Champagne Trolley, something I am not a fan off. If I want a glass I prefer to check the wine list first to make sure I know what I am getting, so we just stuck to tap water while we made our menu selection. Despite the hefty prices you can still go down the less expensive route by ordering from the Gourmet Rapide Menu.  However as we wanted to get the full experience on our first visit we opted for the regular Tasting Menu (it is expensive, but as you will see from this post – you do get a lot for your money) and asked the Sommelier to recommend a bottle of wine that would suit the whole menu. He selected a reasonably priced bottle of Irouleguy, Xuri d’Ansa 2004 that was drinkable both on its own and as an accompaniment to the food.

Next came the bread, served with some rather spectacular tasting seaweed butter. Then the feast began.   We had a wonderful array of beautifully presented dishes served by Sketches very efficient staff.  Ironically though the presentation and service did eclipse the food a bit.  The food was very good, don’t get me wrong.  The Foie Gras Terrine with Mackerel Bouillon and Clams was an excellent start.  The Marinated Stone Bass, Peas, Spring Cabbage, Mint and
Smoked Lardons was quite lovely, nice flavour combinations and textures.  The huge King Scallop served with Nettle Cream, Haddock, Watercress Salad, Seaweed Butter and Rhubarb was fabulous. One of these could have been turned into a dozen servings at Apsleys (who served up scallop slivers rather than the more generous presentation delivered by Sketch) and the other dishes were enjoyable too. They just didn’t quite meet our expectations, which were perhaps a little too high, due to the rather excessive hype that Sketch gets.  We found ourselves inevitably making comparisons with meals we had in other restaurants. It wasn’t in the same class as Le Bristol in Paris (although the menu was very similar to the one we had there a few years back – especially the lobster and sweet bread dishes).  Moments at the Mandarin in Barcelona had the edge on food presentation and taste.  The Ledbury, The Kitchin and Tom Aikens (at his peak) also won on the flavour front.

This was a tasting menu that definitely filled you up though, we were getting full even before we started on the Grand Dessert which consists of no less than five desserts and a selection of petit fours. However sometimes less is more and I think I would have preferred just a couple of spectacular desserts, rather than five OK ones.  That said, it was still discernibly better than a lot of Michelin starred restaurants out there, and as such I would have no qualms about recommending the Sketch experience, and that’s even without having had the full tour of the premises – we didn’t get the chance to visit the Glade, the Gallery or the East Bar as Blackberry had reserved the rest of Sketch for a product launch, so there was a bit of a buzz around that, as Jessie J was providing the music.

UPDATE : September 2012, Sketch has been awarded a second Michelin Star.

UPDATE : October 2019, Sketch has been awarded a third Michelin Star.

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Eating and Drinking Guide (Westminster & Pimlico)

Westminster/Pimlico is not really the part of London you think of visiting for good restaurants.

WESTMINSTER

There a few that are actually worth a visit.

Osteria Dell’Angolo – upmarket Italian.

Quirinale –  upmarket Italian.

Rex Whistler Restaurant at Tate Britian – great wine cellar.

The Cinnamon Club, Great Smith Street – famous Indian restaurant.

The Rocks – something of a gem on Vauxhall Bridge Road.

and for information a couple of decent breakfast venues, see post

PIMLICO

A Wong – Highly acclaimed modern Chinese restaurant, has a Michelin Star. Booking essential.

Art of Tapas – Tapas bar that’s a bit of find.

Gastronomica – an interesting cafe/deli in the heart of Pimlico.

Goya – A popular and reliable Tapas bar.

 

Return to Index for No Expert Guides 

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The Modern Pantry – food fusion

After recently dining at The Providores I was keen to try The Modern Pantry where Peter Gordons former protégée Anna Hanson produces some very interesting food.

The Modern Pantry is located in St Johns Square, right next door to the delightfully cosy Zetter Townhouse which was ideal for our post lunch cocktails.

We entered The Modern Pantry via the side door, through the informal cafe and were escorted upstairs to the modern quirky dining rooms, with their designer lampshades  and wooden floors which in conjunction with our wobbly table introduced a strange bouncy effect when any one walked by.

As expected the food was imaginative, combining unexpected ingredients to enhance the flavours.

There is a separate charge of £2.60 for the bread, but that makes sense as the bread here is not the boring options provided by most restaurants. The aniseed bread in particular was a real winner.

I started with the the New Caledonian prawn omelette with green chilli,  spring onion and smoked chilli sambal, the combination of the sweet prawns and chilli was stunning, making it the best tasting and interesting omelette I have ever had, a dish that if I made a return visit I would struggle not to order again.

My companion ordered the king scallops with Jerusalem artichoke mash, a tasty dish that was unfortunately spoilt by some grit in the scallops.

For main course I had the lamb rump with curry leaf besam chips and curly kale. The chips were great, less so the curly kale which rather dominated the plate. This dish though was served with a quite lovely 1999 Urbina Rioja.

My companion had the roast cod with chorizo and squid ink mash, a terrific dish that successfully combined some very strong flavours without overpowering the cod.

We finished with the pumpkin and gingernut cheese cake with mulled wine sorbet and the eggnog bread and butter pudding, both rather festive choices.

All in all despite a couple of flaws, this is fusion food that really works. We had a very enjoyable meal in a venue I would be happy to return too.

With the Modern Pantry and Bruno Loubets at the Zetter, St Johns Square, Clerkenwell is a developing into quite a foodie enclave, which can only be a good thing.

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RSJ – Something old and reliable

Not many London Restaurants have been around for as long as RSJ, it opened way back in 1980 and has been in The Good Food Guide since 1981 and not many London Restaurants are fully booked on wet Wednesday evenings either. I suspect RSJs longevity and success are based more on repeat business rather than as a potential pre/post theatre venue – it is a short walk from there to the IMAX and the Old and New Vic Theatres.

RSJ is a rare find, it feels like a “neighbourhood” Restaurant, but is actually in a back street near Waterloo Station. It is also one of the best places in London to sample Loire Valley wines (in fact they specialize in them and run regular wine tasting events – check out the Wine List).

The food is not cutting edge nor is it trying to be – it’s good quality perfectly cooked comfort food. The menu is not large (always a good sign in my view), there are a few a la carte dishes and a nice range of options in the reasonably priced set menu.

I choose from the set menu and started with the Whiskey cured mackerel with beetroot salad and orange dressing – a flavour combination that worked very well. I followed this with a tasty Confit shoulder of Lamb served with Mediterranean Cous Cous and a refreshing cucumber and mint yogurt – perfect, and for dessert I had a pretty large portion of Parkin (Yorkshire Gingerbread) with Liquorish ice cream.  However the star of the show here is always the wines. We started with a bottle of La Taille aux Loups Montlouis Pétillant Triple Zero NV, a zero dosage wine – sweetened only with ripe grapes and followed this with a bottle of 2011  Sancerre  ‘Les Pierris’ Domaine Roger Champault, a red wine that works well with Fish. Then for our main courses one of my dining companions ordered a bottle of 1997  St. Nicolas de Bourgueil Les Graviers, the delivery of which was rather entertaining – basically we were offered the very last bottle in the cellar complete with a badly damaged label. There was also a concern that the wine might not be ok – check out the pictures – the bottle looks ancient and full of character. The wine thankfully was perfect, and after that indulgence we finished with a bottle of  Coteaux de L’Aubance Trie de Vendange Domaine Richou dessert wine before decanting ourselves into a Taxi.

RSJ  is definitely the sort of place to take friends who appreciate good wines and one that I am always happy to return too. It is going to be around for a good few more years too I suspect.

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The Ledbury – More or Less?

We started off the new year on a high, with lunch at The Ledbury.   There were two  menu options. The special lunch Menu at £45 or the Tasting Menu at £75, both available with matching wine.  Such a tough choice, but it was The Ledbury and we just had to go down the “More” route.   We had matching wines for each course (including a matching wine for the amuse bouche) making a total of 8 glasses each (I think).  Pretty heavy for lunch time drinking I have to say. In retrospect the “Less” route might have been the more sensible choice.

We found the restaurant to be rather quiet on this visit, only a few tables were in use during our mid week lunch. So if you pick your day carefully it is possible to get a reservation at this temple of gastronomy.

We started with Chantilly of Colchester Oysters with a Tartare of Scallop and Oyster, Horseradish and Dill – a very elegant dish, this was followed by Flame Grilled Mackerel with Smoked Eel, Celtic Mustard and Shiso. Then we had Hampshire Buffalo Milk Curd with Saint-Nectaire and Truffle Toast. The Truffle Toast was the highlight for me, delicious. We were four glasses down at this point when we moved on to the fish course of Roast Native Lobster with Broccoli stem, Natural Yogurt and Indian Spices in Brown Butter. This was followed by Pork Cheek cooked in Pedro Ximénez with Puffed Grains and Spiced Cream and Roast Haunch of Fallow Deer with White Beetroot and Smoked Bone Marrow and several more glasses of well matched wines. We finished with a light pre-dessert and the dessert of Pavé of Chocolate with Milk Purée and Lovage Ice Cream.

The food was universally good, we just felt that we had over done it.  I am always happy to go to The Ledbury but I think next time I will stick to the set lunch.

One tip though, if you do want to go down the Tasting Menu route,  is to do it at lunch time – the Tasting Menu is £30 cheaper then than the one offered in the evening.

UPDATE – June 2020 Permanently Closed.

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