Ambassade de l’Ile opens

Saturday, June 28th , 2008

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Latium (pictured) is a very pleasant and fairly priced Italian restaurant that has been around for several years now; and somehow I just never got around to trying it. I found it a very likeable restaurant, with an appealing menu that is not excessively priced. Italian food, because it is generally simple, lives or dies by the quality of the produce, and slips in the kitchen show up easily. I found the meal rather mixed, with good starters but some adequate but uninspired vegetables, and the odd failure of technique. Semplice and Zafferano appeal to me because of the superb produce (especially vegetables) that they import from Italy, and Latium didn’t excite me in the same way. However service from the maitre d’ was great, and kitchen goes to the trouble of making its own bread, so it is somewhere I still feel fairly positive about.
However the highlight of the week was Ambassade de l’Ile, the new opening in South Kensington from two star Lyon chef Jean-Christophe Ansanay-Alex. He managed to show what the 3 star Alain Ducasse and Pourcel Brothers utterly failed to when they came to London: just how good French cooking can be. I won’t repeat the review here but certain dishes were dazzling, even in this “soft opening” a few days in. I didn’t like every aspect of the meal, but the best elements were so good I can easily forgive the odd minor slip or dishes that I was personally less fond of. I will definitely be back, and encourage you to try it. Even the service was virtually faultless. 
La Trompette delivered another enjoyable meal. Getting an overdue Michelin star does not seem to have gone to its head. The meal this week began with deep fried goujons of lemon sole with tartare sauce. This is a very simple dish, and yet it was executed just about perfectly. The batter was crisp and light, the fish cooked properly inside, the tartare sauce home-made (6/10). Tuna loin was lightly seared, served with green bean and caper vinaigrette, a little tapenade, sauce vierge and topped with a deep fried quail egg. Again, this is a fairly simple dish, but all elements were correctly cooked, and the dish as a whole worked (6/10). Roast rump of veal was cooked pink, served with excellent fondant potatoes, a duxelle made from girolles, lardons, spring onions and a little veal jus. The jus had real depth of flavour (6/10). Poulet noir was correctly roasted, served with potato gnocchi, leek hearts, vin jaune flavoured with tarragon (6/10). Iced lime parfait was served with light mango sorbet and passion fruit coulis (6/10). The wine list here is superb; tonight a German Riesling and a New Zealand Pinot Noir complemented the food very well. It is easy to see why this place is so busy.
Haandi continues to produce consistently excellent Indian meals. I have written about it many times before so won’t go on at length, but there was one thing I had not tried here before. Bhatura is a deep fried North Indian bread that puffs up into a ball in the frying process. Often this, once it collapses, can be hard and dull, but the version here retained suppleness, with a crumbly flakiness from the frying. This is the best bhatura I have tasted.