Medlar is the first restaurant venture of David O’Connor (previously manager at The Square) and Joe Mercer-Naine, previously sous-chef at Chez Bruce, who also worked at Savoy Grill and Rockpool in Sydney. It is in the Chelsea premises of what was once Vama, near World’s End. The ground-floor dining room is in three sections, seating around 55 diners, with a skylight at the back, and there is also a private dining room upstairs.
Medlar was doing a roaring trade, with 100 covers on this Tuesday night. Three courses are priced at £39.50, though coffee is a rather steep £3.95, and water £3.75 a bottle. Bread is now made in-house: focaccia was a little hard, and sourdough pleasant, but I think the bread-making has some way to develop here (4/10). Seasonal English asparagus was served with soft-boiled pheasant egg, pickled shimeji mushrooms, pea mousse, goat curd and black olive. The green asparagus was excellent, and the balance of the dish was good: the pickled mushrooms balanced the richness of the goat curd and egg, and the pea mousse had good flavour (6/10). The crab ravioli has stayed on the menu since opening and was as good as it was before (6/10).
Duck egg tart with red wine sauce was served with sautéed duck heart, lardons and turnip puree. The duck heart, a tricky ingredient, was skilfully cooked, and the red wine sauce had plenty of intensity, the turnip providing a little earthy balance (5/10). Wild garlic, parsley and Jersey Royal soup was prettily garnished with leaves and edible flowers and was pleasant enough, though I felt that the wild garlic was rather overwhelmed by the parsley (4/10). This was accompanied by some excellent, light gougeres made with Comte (6/10). Wood pigeon was carefully cooked, pink and with nice flavour, served with roast foie gras, morels, shallot puree and crepe parmentier. This was quite a rich dish, with the foie gras and sauce of cooking juices, although the crepe parmentier provided some contrast (5/10).
For dessert, chocolate delice with milk ice cream and griottine cherries was an excellent dish, the milk ice cream giving the dish balance, the cherries good, the chocolate suitably rich (5/10). I was impressed by a simple passion fruit ice cream with tuiles, with the ice cream having deep passion fruit flavour and lovely texture, the tuiles light (6/10 is probably too mean a score).
Service, from a waitress who used to work at The Harwood Arms, was genuinely good: friendly and knowledgeable, with faultless topping up. The bill came to £91 a head with a pleasant German Riesling and a couple of extra glasses of wine; three courses are priced at £39.50. Medlar is a very capable restaurant, with an appealing menu and excellent service; it is no surprise that it is prospering.
Below are notes from a meal in April 2011.
The menu offered a range of appealing modern British dishes, with £30 for three courses, and £20 at lunch (this is an opening price, so is subject to change). The wine list had around 170 choices, mostly French but with some additional global coverage. Examples were Trimbach Riesling 2008 at £42 for a wine that you can purchase for £11 in the shops, Guigal Condrieu 2008 £75 for a wine that retails at £24, and Ogier Cote Rotie 2004 at £90 compared to a shop price of around £52. I was pleased to see that the kitchen had made the effort to make its own bread, including soft focaccia and good quality sourdough (6/10).
I began with a crab raviolo with brown shrimps, samphire, leek fondue and a bisque sauce. This was a carefully made, rich dish, the pasta tender and the bisque having plenty of seafood flavour (6/10). Not in the same league, though perfectly pleasant, was asparagus with poached pheasant egg, soft polenta and trompette mushrooms and sheep cheese from Berkwell; the asparagus was cooked properly, though the dish was under-seasoned and there is only so much that can be done with polenta (3/10).
My main course of wood pigeon was cooked pink and had plenty of flavour, with roasted foie gras, buttered kale, confit of garlic puree, nice made little gnocchi and red chard. The jus with this could have been thicker, but it was otherwise hard to fault the dish, which was nicely balanced and whose vegetables were nicely cooked (5/10). A dish of potato ravioli again had good pasta, truffle emulsion with rather muted flavour, tomato petals, pea shoots, girolles and a little Parmesan (4/10). On the side, triple cooked chips were very good indeed, crisp and nicely cooked through (7/10).
Cheese was from Paxton and Whitfield and Comptoir Gascon and was in excellent condition: St Maure de Touraine was not chalky, Brillat Savarin was creamy, Epoisses was runnily ripe and Stichelton suitably strong; plenty of Michelin starred restaurants serve cheese in less good condition; a little chutney of medlar (an acidic fruit rather like a plum) was served on the side (7/10).
Walnut tartlet featured good pastry and nice walnut flavour, crème fraiche sorbet and a little grated coconut (5/10). Poached rhubarb and frangipane croustade had rhubarb whose acidity was nicely balanced by enough sugar, and firm pastry, served with vanilla ice cream that actually tasted of vanilla (5/10). Coffee was very good (the Revelation blend from Union Coffee), served with chocolate truffles.
Service was generally attentive, even though this was early days for the restaurant, and in fact the general impression was of a smoothly running operation, which is a significant achievement given that we visited in the very first days of opening. The cooking seemed remarkably assured for a kitchen that had only just opened. I am sure that Medlar will prosper.