I visit Angelus

Saturday, January 19th , 2008

 angelus 2848 entrance-crop-v3.JPG
Angelus is a recent venture from ex-Gavroche sommelier Thierry Tomasin. Despite being herded into the less attractive basement rather than the cosy main dining room, and some surreal service (see review) we had a quite enjoyable meal. The cooking was a little erratic, varying from very good indeed to distinctly ordinary, but at least they seem to be trying quite hard. The wine list is tolerably priced and well chosen.
As regular readers know, while I have a lot of respect for Michelin in terms of its assessment of French cooking, it seems to be less sure-footed when it strays into oriental food, and especially Indian food. In London it dishes out stars to Tamarind, Amaya, Benares and Vineet Bhatia (and even the dismal Thai restaurant Nahm), which have in common decent cooking, smart decor but sky high prices. Yet Michelin neglect places which serve clearly superior food (Tangawizi, Haandi, Brilliant,...). An illustration of this happened this week, where I had a pleasant but entirely ordinary 2/10 meal at Benares where I am grateful to say someone else paid the bill (thank you Chris). Main courses here reach up to £35, vegetable side dishes around £9. By contrast I had a better meal at Madhus in Southall, with terrific aloo tikki and prawn biriani in particular. This cost £21 a head for more food than you can shake a stick at, a sum of money that would not get you a main course at Benares. I venture to suggest that the Michelin inspectors in London could do with spending some time in India to become more familiar with the cooking rather than falling back on smart decor and high prices as an indicator of quality. 
Zafferano changes its menu in tune with seasons, which is logical in a place which puts such emphasis on ingredients. Wild mushroom bruchetta as a nibble was about as good as one could imagine this simple dish being (7/10). I started with salad of baby spinach leaves on top of which was beetroot, then a layer of riocotta. The leaves were prettily arranged, fresh and well dressed, the beetroot good, the ricotta the only off-note, being a little dull in taste (5/10). My pheasant ravioli with rosemary was superb as practically all the pasta is here (7/10). Most impressive was a new dish, char-grilled tuna with fennel and “taggiasche” olives. This dish was garnished with very tasty little garlic chips, which gave a welcome texture contrast, and tasted very distinctly of garlic. The tuna was lightly seared (7/10). This is a big improvement in their tuna treatment here, as they used to do a dish with tuna, rocket and tomatoes where the tuna was usually significantly overcooked, a rare blind spot in the kitchen. Also impressive was a millefeuille of chestnut cream and rum ice cream. The flaky pastry here was superb and I am assured that it was made rather than bought, which is a major effort for the kitchen brigade but well worth it based on the result, delightfully light pastry that melted in the mouth (7/10). As ever, service was superb.
I am just off to India to try and re-familiarise myself with that yellow orb in the sky which I recall used to appear during the day in England on occasion; you know, circular thing, vaguely warming? Last sighted around September. The blog next week will be consequently a couple of days late and feature the food of Jamavar in Goa, which I hope is still the best Indian restaurant in the world.