Miles Kirby was the head chef at Providores, the original London fusion restaurant. The theme continues here in this trendy Exmouth Market location. "Small plates" were mostly priced from £5-£7, "large plates" £15, desserts around £6. The wine lists started at about £16, and ranged up to around £50. Isabel Estate Pinot Gris 2009 was £32.50 for a wine that will set you back around £11 in the shops, Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc was a somewhat pricey £44 for a wine that costs £11 to buy, while the excellent Ata Rangi Celebre 2007 was £50 for a wine that costs around £17 retail. Here are brief notes from a meal in January 2011.
Tonight we had several of the small plates. Falafel was excellent, definitely a class up from the supermarket version (3/10). Tomato and chilli soup was lacking in chilli and was a little sour (just a pinch of sugar would have done wonders) and was also not quite hot, though it at least tasted of tomato (1/10). Turmeric roast cauliflower with cheese sauce and Parmesan crumbs did not really work, the cauliflower flavour lost in the strong cheese sauce and the turmeric taste vanishing entirely (less than 1/10).
A trio of grilled scallops was served on a bed of creamed leeks and black beans. The scallops were charred a little, but in fact the flesh was tender, and the base of leeks and beans was very enjoyable (3/10). Cured salmon, peas, cucumber and wasabi dressing suffered from the salmon being rather hard in texture (1/10). Much better was a salad of smoked eel and potato and baby gem lettuce with a hint of curry powder in the mayonnaise; the potato was nicely cooked and a quail egg as garnish added another taste element (3/10). Overall this was really only 2/10, and was a less successful meal than on my last visit. Service was friendly, though a bill of £44 each with just three glasses of wine between two people seemed quite a lot for what was delivered.
What follows are notes from a better meal in May 2010.
There was an amuse-bouche of mushroom and miso tea in a little glass; this tasted of its constituents, but I am not sure how successful this is as a dish (3/10). I really enjoyed a starter of peppered tuna with broad beans and ginger vinaigrette. The tuna was lightly seared, the beans were properly podded and of good quality, the ginger vinaigrette on the salad leaves worked very well, while the pepper on the tuna was nicely balanced. This was a simple dish but it was very well executed (5/10). Soft shell crab was deep-fried and served on celeriac coleslaw with seaweed. The crab was fine, with light batter, but the celeriac was surprisingly subdued in taste, though this was still an enjoyable dish (4/10).
For the main course, my veal schnitzel was a fine example of the breed, the batter very light, the veal tender, garnished with watercress leaves. This is a classic dish yet is so often poorly made; this version was very successful, with an unusually light batter and nice veal (4/10). Salmon with sesame cucumber and rye crumbs was pleasant enough (3/10) while side dishes of sprouting broccoli and matchstick fries were fine (3/10).
For dessert, a chocolate fondant with espresso was light on the coffee but was nonetheless very nicely made, with a rich, liquid centre (5/10). This was better than roast figs with blood orange marmalade, goat yoghurt sorbet and macadamia. The marmalade was good, as was the sorbet, but the figs were of rather poor quality (2/10). The coffee is excellent, a lot better than I was expecting from a restaurant at this level; the espresso had real concentration of flavour (7/10). The bill came to £66 each, but to be fair this included the best wine on the list, so it would be easy to eat for significantly less than this. I was a bit baffled about the high quality of the coffee until I went to the bathroom in the basement and saw a vast coffee roasting machine that seems to take up most of the room, using beans from Mercanto, a coffee specialist. This is obviously a place that takes its coffee seriously. The service was excellent, friendly and efficient. The restaurant is clearly a hit. We turned up just before 10 p.m. on a Wednesday night and every table was taken.