Pantechnicon reviewed

Friday, May 23rd , 2008

pantechnicon 3648 fish fingers-crop-v3.JPG
Pantechnicon is a modern British restaurant with an extremely appealing menu and a light, airy dining room. The wine list is nicely chosen and tolerably priced. We had several excellent dishes, let down only by a couple of slips such as an overcooked tuna (which was quickly replaced without demur). This is somewhere I will definitely return to.  I liked the wit of a dish of "fish fingers" with a quail egg and properly made baked beans (pictured).
Rooburoo was a triumph of style over substance. The menu is appealing and wittily written e.g. a section “off the eaten path”, the décor mostly modern apart from an intentionally ironic booth with traditional Indian restaurant flock wallpaper. Prices are low, and this is competing in the same territory as Masala Zone and Urban Turban. Writing a nice menu and cooking nice food however, are two different things. Cheap ingredients need to be enlivened with fresh spices; indeed spicing is pretty much the point of Indian cooking. Yet the spicing was muted to the point of invisibility, and where it was discernible there was just a blunt chilli heat rather than the sense of individual spices that comes when they are freshly ground. Throw in a couple of technical errors and you end up with a disappointing experience.
Rhodes W1 was better this week than on my first (lunch time) visit though the rather formal dining room did not sit well with the muzak that was playing – a bit of rap with your scallions anyone? This seems a little over-playful for a restaurant that is clearly going for a serious take on food. Classical dishes are handled well, with a rich steak and foie gras dish with Madeira jus, and a light passion fruit soufflé, for example. However there were slips, such as a truly dire beignet (think squash ball) with the otherwise excellent plate of lemon desserts, a totally avoidable error given that the waiter revealed that he had already pointed the problem out to the kitchen earlier that evening. Otherwise the kitchen was mostly on solid ground, and there are several tasty nibbles while you wait for your starter. I have nudged up the score on my site to a 5/10 based on this meal, and indeed beignet aside it was comfortably at that level. However the bill seems to me the problem. £60 for three courses combined with a pricey wine list and extras (coffee £5) led to a £120 a person bill with no pre-dinner drinks and just one nice but by no means excessive bottle of wine between two. This seems to be too greedy, and indeed I gather that during the week the restaurant is by no means bursting at the seams. Perhaps it will take a recession for London restaurant owners to reduce the level of avarice that seems to be on display all too often at present. 
Haandi is one of the most reliable Indian restaurants in London. Its rendition of chicken tikka is one of the very best, and its treatment of vegetables particularly noteworthy. O often vegetables in curries are reduced to some sort of unidentifiable mush, but here there are lightly cooked, retaining their taste and texture in amongst the rich spicy sauces.   On this visit we also sampled excellent crispy and spicy bhindi bhajias, good fish tikka and a tasty methi chicken curry. As ever, the paratha here is excellent; a prawn masala, not quite up to the same standard but still very pleasant. 
I was not the only one to think that Roussillon would be an ideal stop after the Chelsea Flower Show; I only got a table on a cancellation.  I always find this restaurant delivers an enjoyable experience. The service is genuinely excellent, and you get all the elements of a Michelin starred experience: amuse bouche, pre-desserts, home-made breads. The desserts are consistently the strong suit, especially the chocolate croustillant. Vegetables are carefully cooked and on this visit a main course of turbot was especially well timed. Yet somehow there is always a small slip to slightly bring down the average level, and tonight it was a starter of langoustines which were seriously overcooked: they had almost a cotton wool texture. This was just about the only flaw in an otherwise very enjoyable meal. As a bonus the wine list here is terrific.
The Ledbury is another Michelin starred establishment that is very consistent and rarely disappoints. The highlight this week was a superbly tender loin of roe buck deer deer sausage, with sweet potato, celeriac puree and an infusion of Douglas fir and pepper. A superb passion fruit soufflé also showed excellent technique which oddly lapsed in my starter, where scallops were distinctly overcooked though gnocchi had excellent texture. Service is attentive and my only minor issue is that the kitchen seems to me to be trying a little too hard, putting that extra flavour into a dish that does not really need it, adding “innovative” flavour elements almost for the sake o being modern rather than because of what they bring to the dishes. Still, this was overall a pleasant one star meal.  
Next stop, Tokyo.