The Square revisited

Monday, August 28th , 2006

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I can never make my mind up about The Square, the 2 Michelin star Mayfair restaurant at which Philip Howard has made a great success.  In the past I have had some erratic service, but the food is technically excellent. This week a starter of scallops and a main course of John Dory with wild mushrooms showed, as ever, high quality ingredients and strong technique, as did a passion fruit soufflé with a lime sorbet.  Yet despite the many pluses of The Square I never feel really excited by the cooking.  It is like a big Mercedes: reliable, expensive, assured. Yet exciting it is not, with some dishes on the appealing menu unchanged for many years. Personally I prefer Shane Osborne’s cooking at Pied a Terre right now – it has more going on and more chance of a thrilling dish, even if there are minor imperfections.  However London is crying out for a new high end restaurant; the last was Tom Aikens several years ago. Restaurateurs are playing it safe these days with easily reproduced bistro food at high prices and high margins e.g. Arbutus. It would nice not to have to go to France whenever you want to get a really thrilling top end meal.

I also tried a relative Wembley newcomer: Jeevan, a Punjabi restaurant. Despite this being recommended by an Indian chef I know, the cooking, though better than a high street tandoori, was barely 1/10 in my marking scheme. Chicken malai tikka was the best dish, the chicken tender from the marinade and cooked correctly in the tandoor, while breads were also good e.g. garlic naan. However a prawn curry had overcooked prawns and a methi chicken main course had the bizarre taste of mint about it, while vegetables were pleasant enough but all had a very one dimensional spicing. If in Wembley then it would seem best to stick to old faithful Sakonis, the large South Indian vegetarian restaurant.