104 opened in March 2019, occupying the tiny site of the fomer Mairianne in Notting Hill, which has just a dozen seats. 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. There is a set tasting menu of four courses for £65, though they will endeavour to accommodate reasonable dietary restrictions. Mr Wilkins is the only chef in the kitchen, with help just from a single kitchen porter.
The winelist was quite short at 32 bottles plus some halves but caters to a wide range of pockets, with prices starting at £29 but heading right up to £1,200. The median price was £92 and the average markup to retail price was 2.9, which these days seems almost reasonable in London. Corkage was a fair £25. Sample labels were Sauvignon Blanc/Vermentino Domaine Saint Felix IGP Pays d'Oc 2018 at £29 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £6, Petit Chablis Domaine Moreau-Naudet 2017 at £55 compared to its retail price of £26, and Nahi Tempranillo Sierra de Toloño 2016 at £94 for a wine that will set you back £40 in a shop. At the posh end of the list, Valbuena 5 ̊ Vega Sicilia 2013 was £265 compared to its retail price of £127, and Clos Du Cailleret Puligny Montrachet Domaine Des Lambrays 2015 was £275 for a wine whose current market value was £130.
The meal began with little tartlets of potato cream and black truffles from Australia. The base of the tartlets was made with brik pastry and was delicate, the earthy flavours of the potato and truffle working nicely together (15/20). Gazpacho was made with “tiger tomatoes” from southern Sicily, and resting in the soup were pieces of cucumber and basil (15/20).
Bread was made in the kitchen and was very enjoyable, though the crust could have been crisper and the texture of the bread a little more airy. However its flavour was very good, and it was nice to see a chef making his own bread, especially in such a tiny kitchen (14/20). Orkney scallop came with Granny Smith apple, peas and loveage. The peas were from Yorkshire and had nice flavour, being quite sweet, and the scallop was of high quality (16/20).
Scottish langoustines came with a soubise sauce made with Grelot onions., as well as a langoustine bisque. The sauce was excellent, the langoustines cooked just a fraction longer than ideal, but being of excellent quality and having their characteristic gentle hint of sweetness (14/20).
Fillet of turbot was from a large 5kg fish (wth turbot, the bigger the better in terms of flavour). This came with globe artichokes and champagne sauce. The fish itself had good flavour and was nicely cooked, and I liked the creamy, frothy sauce, whose champagne flavour came through. I wondered whether some more vegetables might have been useful in terms of the balance of the dish, but the fish itself was good (14/20).
Chocolate molleux (a rich, moist cake) was made with 70% chocolate, had a crunchy feuilletine base and came with passion fruit sorbet. This was a pleasant surprise, as so many UK restaurants these days seems to lack pastry skills and end up trying to disguise this by serving wacky shrubbery-based desserts that conveniently lack benchmarks to compare with. By contrast this was a classic recipe, the cake deeply flavoured and having lovely texture, balanced by the gentle acidity of the sorbet, which itself had smooth texture and good balance (easily 16/20). Above all, it is just the the kind of thing that most people, or at least me, actually want to eat.
Coffee was Brazilian Yellow Bourbon from Difference Coffee, who produce Nespresso-compatible capsules but with much higher quality coffee than Nespresso themselves sell. Some people can be sniffy about the use of Nespresso machines, but they produce a consistent result without requiring a skilled barista, and their main limitation has been moderate quality coffee, which is not the case here. This brand of coffee is on the menu at restaurants that include Arpege, Pic and Mirazur. This particular blend has a mild flavour with some gentle acidity. It came with very good madeleines, which had a soft, pillowy texture (16/20).
The bill came to £105 per person, and service from the experienced Matt Hough, who used to work at Hedone amongst other places, was charming. If you shared a modest bottle of wine from the list then a typical cost per person with coffee might be around £95. This was a very enjoyable meal, 104 offering a genuinely appealing menu and using high quality produce, delivered with skill. Sure, there were one or two things that could be tweaked, but this is already cooking at an impressive level, and for me was a very appealing place in which to eat.