There’s good service and then there is mind-reading. Maybe it was my expression, or maybe they’re just very good at looking after you, but within five minutes of sitting down at the table, one of the waitresses came up and asked whether the music was a little bit too much. It was. I love her.
I’d read about this in the FT and thought that it looked extremely me. Slap bang in the middle of Fitzrovia, this is a converted former pub, done out in cream and British Racing green. Lots of dark wood as well. It’s quite spare and the tables, at least on the ground floor, are well-spaced.
They have a shellfish bar, where they do all-day snacks. The lobster roll, salad and chips, at £15, looks particularly promising, as does the shellfish platter at £25 per person. The bar snacks demonstrate what type of place this is – a charcuterie plate at £10, a choice of Nocarella or Gaeta olives at £4 or roasted Marconas almonds at £5 are some of the items on offer. And not only that, they butcher their own meat. This is a place that cares about the detail.
We were eating from the slightly more ambitious restaurant menu. Obviously, given that everything was reasonably priced, the appearance on that menu of Dover sole, lemon & bay from £75 looked like a typographical error. It wasn’t. These Dover sole are the mothers of all Dover sole. Obviously we had to have one.
But I get ahead of myself. Squirreled away in a far corner, we were very happy, once the music had been turned down. Asked if we wanted water, we asked for tap. It came in a hand-thrown jug. Nice detail. It was replenished on numerous occasions during the evening, without us having to ask.
And I went for the Brundish onion tart (£6). Brundish is a place, since you were wondering. The tart came surrounded by rocket leaves and thinly- sliced pickled red onion. The first word that came into my mind was ethereal. Not a word that comes into my mind particularly often, especially in relation to an onion tart, but it really was good. The custard was incredibly delicate and the onions were perfect and the shortcrust pastry had the right amount of crumble. In case you can’t tell, I loved this. Simple flavours, properly presented, this was a dish that I would be happy to eat again. Regularly.
C, who I am now dragging into London, weekly, just to eat with me , chose the Devon crab salad, with Melba toast. This came with three accompaniments and was pronounced excellent. I was allowed to have one forkful. C is very strict about the sharing thing and I often get the look. Which I generally ignore. It was good. Really good. A sharp creamy dressing and fantastically fresh crab. Again, faultless.
And then the enormo-sole. Joke size. They asked whether we wanted it on the bone. I did. C didn’t. So they said that they would bring it for us to see and then take it off the bone in the kitchen. They didn’t, hence no picture. It came already plated up – one plate including the head the other the fish bone, which looked rather dramatic, but didn’t actually do anything. And in truth, they could not have actually put the whole fish on the table between us, because the table was really rather small. My only criticism.
The fish came accompanied by the buttery cooking juices. It was superb. Fresh, firm and meaty.
I ignored the fact of the triple-cooked chips and instead went for the Jersey Royals and the spiced cauliflower. Again, the lovely hand-thrown pots. Lots of fresh butter for the potatoes.
And the spiced cauliflower I really loved. Onion-y and garlic-y with a strong turmeric flavour. It made me want to go home and copy. Which I will.
I’d eaten my bread and also some of C’s as, inexplicably, he hadn’t eaten it within three seconds of it being placed on the table. Bread mention : baked on the premises. Good.
Having eaten all that, I had no room for dessert, but there was an Original Beans chocolate mousse on the menu, so I ignored the fact that my waistband was operating as a food chastity-belt and undid the buttons. Elegant as ever.
Original Beans. If you haven’t heard of them yet, you will. And where else can you actually order a bar of chocolate at a restaurant? It’s like they’ve read my mind.
And the mousse. Not just mousse. Chocolate ice-cream, chocolate mousse and chocolate and nut brittle. I risked major dental work biting into that, but it was worth it. I fell silent. It was that good.
And I could have had a wonderful tea, provided by the inimitable Henrietta Lovell but really, there was no more room. Next time. For there will undoubtedly be a next time and many more, on this showing. Everything worked. Service, food, ambience. It’s not simple to achieve, but they make it look effortless. Joy.<