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Alistair Little

Frith Street, 49 Frith Street,, London, England, W1D 4SG, United Kingdom

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The restaurant has now closed, so the notes below are of historical interest only.

The dining room has an uncluttered simplicity, with just two rows of tables.The floor is bare wood, the walls painted cream, the ceiling painted a tan colour. On the walls are various abstract paintings, filling most of the walls.The tables are packed in here, and you are very near to your neighbouring table wherever you are sitting. The lighting is unusual, in that it consists of a large number of little fittings that resemble a tiny version of a neon tube light, each suspended from the fairly low ceiling; each of these little fittings is perhaps six inches in length, and there are many dozens of them. The overall effect is bright and cheerful. There is a single vase of flowers with, it has to be said, fairly limp looking flowers. Each table has a white linen tablecloth and white linen napkins. On the table is a single night light in a clear glass holder, wooden salt and pepper pots, and a dish of butter. Crockery is plain white. There is a further basement room downstairs, which tonight was being used for a private party. No music is played in the dining room, though with the wooden floor and fairly cramped surroundings, it was noisy enough. Waiters and waitresses are causally dressed and service was excellent throughout. Dishes arrived at a steady pace, the service was attentive, water and wine was topped up. Indeed it was hard to find any fault at all with the service here, which seemed so effortless that it did make me wonder how so many restaurants manage to make such a hash of things. The manageress was previously from a riverside restaurant in Chiswick, as was one of the waiters.

The wine list is simple, with a page each of white and reds, and went from £17.50 at the low end, with a good choice around the £30-£40 mark, to a few more ambitious bottles. There were three dessert wines, including a Montbazillac by the glass. The excellent Billecart Salmon champagne was a fair £39. The wines were a mix of old and New World, and featured good growers such as Shaw and Smith from Australia. Water is Kingsdown at what these days seems a quite fair £3.75. The only blemish was the wine glasses, which instead of the ideal tulip shape had a wide rim, which allows the bouquet of the wine to dissipate rather than be concentrated. There are no amuse-bouche, but bread was brought to the table soon after arrival.

Tonight three different slices were available: a brown, a white and a foccacia. The brown had a pleasing crust embedded with sesame seeds, and each bread had good flavour and seasoning (easily 15/20 bread). My starter was sizzling prawns, a dozen small prawns which arrived in an iron wok. They had been cooked with garlic and chilli, and were liberally garnished with chopped parsley. The prawns were of excellent quality (no chlorine smell here that you can get with cheap prawns), cooked through so that they were tender, while the freshly chopped parsley went well with the prawns, which were pleasantly enlivened by a hint of carefully restrained chilli. This was delightful, simple yet delicious (15/20, bordering on 16/20)

My wife had goat cheese, three slices of pleasant but not stunning cheese, served with slices of roast red bell peppers, two slices of sour dough toast and a tapenade that, while pleasant, lacked the great intensity of olive flavour that the best examples have. There were a few green leaves of lambs lettuce to add colour, and a huge roasted clove of new season garlic (the only element of the dish served warm, apart from the toast). This was all very pleasant, but they needed to be using a better goat cheese and tapenade to really succeed with such a simple dish (13/20).

My wife had wild sea bass, roasted and served on a bed of tender puy lentils with a mustard sauce. There were a few properly cooked carrots and green beans to accompany the dish. The sea bass had good taste and was carefully timed, the lentils were good, and the sauce was well judged: it had a pleasing punch to it, made from English mustard. Some mustard sauces are so “subtle” that they lack any interest at all, but this one had a pleasant kick to it, while by no means overwhelming the fish (15/20).

My fillet steak was of very good quality, much better than several I have had in the preceding months. It was Scottish “Braveheart” meat from Ben’s Meat company. This was served with capable, thin chips that were cooked through properly, crisp on the outside and with a clean flavour. A side salad of fresh green leaves with a well balanced dressing gave a pleasant healthy element to the dish, and a little béarnaise sauce was well made, with the hint of tarragon taste evident, as was the seasoning of black pepper, while the reduction of wine vinegar gave enough acidity to balance the richness of the butter and cream (16/20).

Chocolate Bavarois was well made, a rich mix of good quality chocolate, milk and egg custard, served with a little Greek yoghurt and lime curd ice cream, which gave a pleasant tartness to offset the richness of the chocolate; this was served with a brandy snap. Flecks of both dark and white chocolate were used to decorate the plate, and there was a good chocolate brandy truffle on the side (14/20). I had creme brulee, made in the classic way, with no unnecessary frippery. The crust was correctly crisped via a blowtorch, the custard beneath having excellent texture and fresh vanilla taste (15/20). Both filter coffee and espresso were capable (15/20).

I was very pleasantly surprised by the generally high quality of ingredients (wild sea bass, fine fillet steak), the clean simplicity of flavours and the strong technical execution of the dishes. The atmosphere was relaxed and as unfussy as the cooking .Apart from a little cavil about the goat cheese starter, this was a clear 15/20 meal. This kitchen delivers good, simple food, and who can ask for much more than that?

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  • Amol Parnaik

    Deep in Soho sits this small, cosy dinning room with a very laid back, spontaneous 'let's go out for dinner' feel about the place. The menu is simple, with 9 starters and 6 mains, reasonable well thought out ranging from avocado, roquefort, shrimp & bacon salad to steak and chips. I had the pea soup with layered scallops to start, the organic salmon for main, and the lemon tart to finish. The pea soup was very nice. Very fresh, with a hint of mint to carry it. Nice, hot and warming. The scallops ate well with the soup, though I'm not sure about the 'parchment bread' they came on. Overall, pretty good. The cod was equally as tasty. Very well made and combined oriental flavours, i.e. pickled ginger, noodles, wasabi, with more western tastes. This was very clever and made the whole meal exciting. Dessert was ok, though felt brought in. A bit of a shame, but still edible. Overall, a very good meal. Clean, well made, well thought out, it's a shame they're aren't more places like this. (5/10)

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