It is tricky to socially distance in a tiny restaurant, though 104 has somehow managed to drop one of its handful of tables since it re-opened after the coronavirus lockdown. Head chef Richard Wilkins most recently had his own restaurant in Buckhurst Hill, but has trained at some serious places over the years, including Petrus, Pic, The Hardwick, Le Bristol and The Waterside Inn. Mr Wilkins is the only chef in the kitchen, while the experienced Matt Hough runs the front of house. The tasting menu today was £110, though you could have three courses for £60.
The wine list featured 47 full-sized bottles and had a wide price range, starting at £29 but also having plenty of luxury options, right up to Domaine Romanee Conti La Tache 1992 at £5,750 (compared to its current market value of £3,496). The median price of a bottle was £150, so the list was certainly skewed towards the high end, presumably reflecting its prosperous local clientele, and the average mark-up to retail price was exactly three times. Example bottles were Gruener Veltliner Hochterassen Salamon Undhof 2017 at £39 for a wine that you can find in the high street for £17, Disnoko Dry Furmint at £46 compared to its retail price of £13, and Mercurey Les Nauges Domaine Francois Raquillet 2016 at £85 for a bottle that will set you back £29 in a shop. At the prestige end of the list, Vega Sicilia Unico 2004 was £750 compared to its retail price of £277, while Meursault Coche-Dury 2013 was £1,425 for a wine whose current market value is £458.
We began with a Mediterranean tartlet of Sicilian tomatoes that had quite good flavour, resting on a delicate pastry base (14/20). Native blue lobster was tender, resting in a lobster bisque and with a garnish of beluga lentils, an American black lentil that gets its name from its passing resemblance to caviar. The texture of the lentils contrasted nicely with the flesh of the shellfish (15/20).
Cornish turbot fillet from a good-sized 5 kg fish was lightly cooked (perhaps a smidgen undercooked), served with a delicate spinach and champagne sauce that worked very well (14/20). Hand-rolled tagliatelle had pleasing texture, flavoured simply with three-year aged Parmesan and shavings of western Australian black truffle (15/20). For the main course I had A5 grade wagyu from Gunma prefecture. This was suitably buttery in texture and came with delicate ratte potato and nicely cooked English peas, with a sauce of the cooking juices flavoured with shallots and a little foie gras (15/20). The alternative was cannon of lamb from Rhug Estate with the same garnishes.
Cheeses were supplied by the excellent La Fromagerie, along with a red onion chutney. Raspberry millefeuille was attractively presented, with fruit from Monts de Velay in Haut Loire and good puff pastry (15/20). Coffee was the excellent Brazilian Yellow Bourbon from Difference Coffee, served with soft, fluffy lemon madeleines.
Matt Hough, who has run front of house at numerous restaurants over the years, is a capable and charming host. The bill came to £293 per person including corkage and some wine, which is quite a lot of money, though we certainly pushed the boat out today. If you went a la carte and shared a bottle from the cheaper end of the list then a more typical cost per person might be around £95.
Further reviews: 27th Jun 2019