From Berkshire to Brentford

Saturday, June 21st , 2014

cliveden 5472 grounds-crop-v2.JPG

Ting is the latest restaurant to open in the Shard, which towers above London Bridge station. The menu reflects its hotel setting and is oddly diverse, with both European and Asian food served (with some north African dishes thrown in should you wish). The European dishes that we tried were pretty good, the solitary Asian dish less so. Service was friendly but of course you are paying a premium for the stunning view from the 35th floor. With this setting they could get away serving any old slop and people would still come in to gawp, so it is to their credit that they are making some effort.

Cliveden (its grounds are pictured) is a vast country estate in Berkshire with fascinating history, most notably it being the location where Christine Keeler met John Profumo in 1961, resulting in a seismic political scandal. Cliveden’s new owners have finally moved the flagship restaurant out of the basement to the lovely terrace room, which has a handsome view over the grounds. It also recruited a chef (Andre Garrett) who previously had a Michelin star, so the scene was set for a fine meal. In reality the experience was merely pleasant, as although the technical side of the cooking was good, I found a number of dishes had very muted flavour, presumably due to less than stellar ingredients. Service was excellent and the overall experience fine, but at this price I think the chef can improve on the current standard, given his track record.   

The value for money factor was impressive at 8 Hoxton Square, where enjoyable, simple rustic food is produced in a casual, friendly setting. The wine list here (not the regular printed list but the handwritten one that changes monthly) is very impressive not just for the clever choice of growers but the genuinely low prices. Many of the wines here are only a little more than their retail price, and how often does that happen in London. An entire meal here with wine will cost you about the same as a main course at plenty of London venues.

The Watermans Arms in Brentford is a very basic boozer where you can have fish and chips and a pint of you like. The more adventurous are rewarded by the hearty Japanese dishes prepared by its owner, who lived in Japan for several years and has a Japanese wife. It is not sophisticated cooking, but I enjoyed my kakiage (tempura of prawn and shredded vegetables) and slightly spicy soba noodles at my visit this week. Prices are a steal. 

Sushi Tetsu is the nearest thing to a proper Tokyo sushi bar in London. It has just seven seats, its chef is obsessive about sushi and he sources his fish with greater care than any other Japanese restaurant that I have seen in London. He even uses proper wasabi root from Japan, which is very expensive but is a world apart from the green coloured horseradish and mustard from a tube that virtually every other Japanese restaurant in London uses. The chef works on his own, his wife running the service, and the impeccable sushi experience that results is so good that getting a reservation is now nightmarishly difficult. In this way it is also authentically Japanese, as those who have tried to get a reservation at Sushi Saito, the number one rated sushi restaurant in Tokyo, can testify.