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I review Lutyens

Saturday, January 30th , 2010

sportsman 750 outside 2-crop-v2.JPG

Terence Conran has contributed a lot to the British restaurant scene, causing a sensation with Quaglino’s relaunch all those years ago, to be followed by a series of other stylish ventures (Pont de la Tour, Bluebird, etc). For all the classy design, the food at his venues has tended to be pleasant rather than anything more than that, and after he sold off his restaurants in May 2008 to D&D Restaurants I had assumed that he would fade away from the London restaurant scene. However at the age of 78 he seems far from retiring, and with Boundary and now Lutyens he is at it again. I can’t say I was particularly taken with the food at Boundary, so I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the cooking at Lutyens, his latest venture. It has the large, appealing menu and clean design of most Conran venues, but somehow it just works better than any of his other places that I have tried. The room is attractive, service smooth and above all the food was genuinely good. As a bonus I was surprised to see that the wine list has some high-end bargains.


Manson is a recently opened restaurant in Fulham from the same stable as Sands End. This is aiming at a higher culinary level and only partly succeeds. Presentation was good and the savoury dishes were well conceived, though there were some minor technical glitches which detracted somewhat. I enjoyed my apple dessert, but it was a rare sensible dish on a dessert menu of peculiar (and in some cases seriously ill-conceived) taste combinations. To me the kitchen is trying to be a bit too clever for its own good based on the meal this week, though there is some ability lurking, and I always have a soft spot for places that make their own bread and pastry rather than buying it in; I think they would benefit from concentrating on greater consistency in the technical execution.


Regular readers will know that I am a big fan of the Sportsman on the Kent coast, so it was a pleasure to return this week and try a winter tasting menu. I enjoyed, amongst other things, excellent turbot and venison dishes, and a really dazzling dish of wigeon with quince sauce and puy lentils, with terrific duck and harmonious accompaniments. Perhaps Stephen Harris could consider getting a specialist pastry chef to lift the level of the overall meal to an ever higher level, but the savoury dishes here range from very good to sublime. The key is the obsession with ingredient quality that so rarely seems to happen in UK kitchens, combined with an admirable restraint in the dishes, adding just enough flavour elements to show off the main ingredients but no more than are strictly needed. This is my kind of cooking. If you note the date of the photos you can also see the difference between the picture quality of my new camera (Canon S90) compared to my previous one (Fuji Finepix). My photography skills have not improved, but the technology has.


Ferran Adria dropped a minor bombshell this week when he announced that he planned to close El Bulli after its season in 2011, until at least 2014.


It seems as if Nuno Mendes, chef at the interesting but now departed Bacchus in Hoxton, has finally sorted out a new venue in Bethnal Green, which should open as early as February. His food is inspired by molecular gastronomy ideas, and despite this I actually liked his food at Bacchus, so it will be interesting o see what he has up his sleeve in his new location.


I appeared in an article in Restaurant magazine this week in the context of a panel discussion at Maze with assorted industry illuminate, covering various topi

 

Terence Conran has contributed a lot to the British restaurant scene, causing a sensation with Quaglino’s relaunch all those years ago, to be followed by a series of other stylish ventures (Pont de la Tour, Bluebird, etc). For all the classy design, the food at his venues has tended to be pleasant rather than anything more than that, and after he sold off his restaurants in May 2008 to D&D Restaurants I had assumed that he would fade away from the London restaurant scene. However at the age of 78 he seems far from retiring, and with Boundary and now Lutyens he is at it again. I can’t say I was particularly taken with the food at Boundary, so I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the cooking at Lutyens, his latest venture. It has the large, appealing menu and clean design of most Conran venues, but somehow it just works better than any of his other places that I have tried. The room is attractive, service smooth and above all the food was genuinely good. As a bonus I was surprised to see that the wine list has some high-end bargains.


Manson is a recently opened restaurant in Fulham from the same stable as Sands End. This is aiming at a higher culinary level and only partly succeeds. Presentation was good and the savoury dishes were well conceived, though there were some minor technical glitches which detracted somewhat. I enjoyed my apple dessert, but it was a rare sensible dish on a dessert menu of peculiar (and in some cases seriously ill-conceived) taste combinations. To me the kitchen is trying to be a bit too clever for its own good based on the meal this week, though there is some ability lurking, and I always have a soft spot for places that make their own bread and pastry rather than buying it in; I think they would benefit from concentrating on greater consistency in the technical execution.


Regular readers will know that I am a big fan of the Sportsman on the Kent coast, so it was a pleasure to return this week and try a winter tasting menu. I enjoyed, amongst other things, excellent turbot and venison dishes, and a really dazzling dish of wigeon with quince sauce and puy lentils, with terrific duck and harmonious accompaniments. Perhaps Stephen Harris could consider getting a specialist pastry chef to lift the level of the overall meal to an ever higher level, but the savoury dishes here range from very good to sublime. The key is the obsession with ingredient quality that so rarely seems to happen in UK kitchens, combined with an admirable restraint in the dishes, adding just enough flavour elements to show off the main ingredients but no more than are strictly needed. This is my kind of cooking. If you follow the link to the photos and note the date of the photos you can also see the difference between the picture quality of my new camera (Canon S90) compared to my previous one (Fuji Finepix). My photography skills have not improved, but the technology has.


Ferran Adria dropped a minor bombshell this week when he announced that he planned to close El Bulli after its season in 2011, until at least 2014.


It seems as if Nuno Mendes, chef at the interesting but now departed Bacchus in Hoxton, has finally sorted out a new venue in Bethnal Green, which should open as early as February. His food is inspired by molecular gastronomy ideas, and despite this I actually liked his food at Bacchus, so it will be interesting o see what he has up his sleeve in his new location.


I appeared in an article in Restaurant magazine this week in the context of a panel discussion at Maze with assorted industry illuminate, covering various topics such as restaurant tipping policies. Unfortunately there does not appear to be an online version of this, so unless you get the print copy you’ll just have to take my for it that the discussion was riveting.

cs such as restaurant tipping policies. Unfortunately there does not appear to be an online version of this, so unless you get the print copy you’ll just have to take my for it that the discussion was riveting.

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@G00dKai I have been to them both, though not recently for French Laundry. They are all good restaurants so there is no poor choice there.