Linnea opened in late October 2013, run by Swedish chef Jonas Karlsson and his wife. The name Linnea comes from the national flower of Sweden (a kind of honeysuckle), appropriate for Kew given its horticultural connections. Mr Karlsson moved to the UK in 2000, cooking at Coq d’Argent and Orrery, and prior to opening Linnea was head chef of the Fifth Floor Café at Harvey Nichols. The short menu offered five choices at each course, with a three-course meal being £32.5 per person. The dining room had a wooden floor and banquettes with a taupe colour theme, and the dining room seats 37 diners at capacity. The restaurant opened in early November 2013, in what used to be the home of a Greek restaurant, just on the edge of Kew Green.
The wine list had just over 60 wines listed, ranging in price from £18.50 to £180, with a median price of £49 and an average mark-up of three times retail price, which is far from kind but is not unusual for London. Oddly, vintages were listed for some wines but not others. Example wines included Legato Inzolia at £22.50 for a wine that you can find in the high street for around £6, Castillo Clavijo Rioja Gran Reserva at £40 for a wine that retails at £14, and Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste 2004 at £90 for a wine that will set you back £41 in a shop.
Bread was made in the kitchen; the white tasted better than the brown, but both were very pleasant (13/20). Beef gravlax was topped with green beans and horseradish, and this interesting variant on the usual salmon dish worked well. The beef had good flavour, the horseradish was not too strong, the beans adding some welcome greenery to balance the richness of the meat (14/20). A soup of butternut squash and aged Parmesan was fine, the slight sweetness of the squash coming through well, the seasoning nicely judged (13/20).
Sea bream was roasted with fennel and dill, with a hay-infused sauce. The fish was accurately cooked, the fennel a good pairing for the fish (13/20). Pollack was pan-fried and served with almond and potato brandade with a red wine jus. Pollack is not the most exciting of fish (except the stunning version at Sa Qua Na) but it was cooked carefully, and what made the dish interesting was the very good brandade, with a mix of potato and pollack coated in almonds, giving some welcome texture and nutty flavour to complement the fairly bland taste of the slab of fish, which rested in some nicely cooked spinach (13/20).
For dessert, saffron mousse came with a sweet wine jelly and shortbread biscuit. The metallic tang of saffron was present but not too strong, and the biscuit was well made, the jelly rounding out the balance of the dish (13/20). Warm chocolate and hazelnut brownie came with salted caramel custard, and although this was pleasant enough, a brownie is a fairly basic dessert offering (12/20). Coffee was from Illy.
Service was well-meaning; the Spanish/German manager was very good, but the service knowledge of the waitresses was very basic indeed. We went during a soft opening and brought our own wine, so the bill was unrepresentatively low at £24 a head. If you had three courses and a modest bottle of wine, a typical bill with coffee and service would come to around £55 a head. Overall I thought Linnea was a very nice neighbourhood restaurant, with capable cooking.