The dining room at Angler, on the seventh floor of the South Place Hotel, is light and airy, with plenty of natural light. The room can seat around 80 at capacity, and its carpeting means that noise levels are blessedly moderate compared to many restaurants in central London.
Head chef Gary Foulkes has been in charge here since April 2016, after moving from his role as head chef of The Square. He previously worked at The Vineyard at Stockcross and The Aubergine under William Drabble. Mr Foulkes was not at service this evening.
There was a tasting menu at £59 and a lengthier version at £85, in addition to a full carte selection. The wine list has not got any cheaper since my last visit. There are some good bottles, such as the J.J. Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spatlese 2011, but £84 was a pretty hefty cash mark-up from its retail price of £31. Even worse was Hubert Lamy 2014 La Princee St Aubin at £95 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for around £20. This is not a list priced to encourage wine lovers.
Sourdough bread was bought in from Flourish, the bread pleasant though a bit lacking in salt to my taste. Nibbles of white garlic cracker with anchovy mousse and rabbit fritter topped with bagna cauda (a Piedmontese dip involving garlic, anchovies and olive oil) were excellent. The rabbit in particular was spot on, crisp and with the strong flavours of the dip nicely enhancing the meat. A bonito cracker with taramasalata was also impressive, though a spelt cracker with black truffle emulsion needed more salt and deeper flavour (15/20 nibbles on average).
Yellowfin tuna tartare with avocado and wasabi came with shiso tempura on a base of pickled white radish. The tuna was fine, and although the tempura would not pass scrutiny in a Tokyo tempura restaurant the dish was successful due to the vinegar kick and crunch of the radish base (16/20). Dorset crab and scallop was wrapped inside a courgette flower and served with crab cream and chive oil. This was a pretty dish that also worked very well, the crab fresh and shell-free, the scallop flesh adding an extra flavour and combining well with the delicate courgette flower (16/20).
An intermediate course of linguine with Australian black truffles was very enjoyable, the pasta having excellent texture, enlivened by a Parmesan broth and by the heady scent of black truffle (16/20).
Sea bass was topped with salad leaves and served on a bed of crushed potato, with a sauce vierge (tomato, basil, lemon and olive oil) on the side. The fish had excellent flavour and was carefully cooked, the freshness of the lemon going well with the bass (16/20). Dover sole was served whole, a very simple dish but one that nonetheless was accurately cooked and enjoyable, the fish of high quality, though some would think it a bit over salted (14/20).
The side dishes were a let down. Mash potato was gloopy, and spinach rather watery; these were oddly out of character with the generally high standard of the rest of the savoury dishes (11/20 at best).
Baked blackberry ice cream with lemon verbena foam and pate feuilletee (light, flaky pastry) had good texture and mercifully restrained verbena flavour but oddly flavourless blackberries 13/20). Better was wild strawberry tart with strawberry ice cream and Jersey cream, which had delicate pastry and strawberries with real fruit flavour (16/20). Baked chocolate ganache with banana milk ice cream had good chocolate, though the choice of flavour of the ice cream seemed rather eccentric (14/20). Coffee was Illy, and this came with some capable petit fours, including a very good lemon meringue on a light buckwheat crisp and a strawberry sorbet coated in white chocolate, though a chocolate topped with olive oil was ill-conceived. No sane person bites into a chocolate thinking: “ooh, what this really needs is a dollop of olive oil to improve it” (14/20 if I ignore the olive oil debacle).
Service was capable, with efficient waiters that knew the menu well, though they were just a touch over-keen to upsell items. The bill eventually came to £126 a head with a good bottle of wine. With starters around £18 and desserts £12 or so and Dover sole weighing in at £43, if you shared a modest bottle of wine then an all in cost per head with coffee and service would be £95 or more. Fish is expensive, but at these price levels any inconsistency in the meal becomes grating. Although some dishes tonight were excellent, not all were to this level, and a Michelin starred restaurant needs to be highly consistent.Book