Editor's note: in March 2014 Ryan Perratt became the new head chef, but lasted only a few wekks. Head chef is now Lee Cadden.
This is the sister restaurant of the long established Charlotte’s Place in Ealing, in what used to be the Fishworks premises. Just after opening the restaurant was turning away diners at the door on a cold Tuesday night. The décor is a significant improvement on the Fishworks dining room. It has a cosier feel, a large skylight retained providing some natural light, though lighting on the tables was a little gloomy, as seems to be the fashion these days. There is also a nice bar area at the front of the premises (where the fish counter used to be).
The following brief notes are from a lunch in February 2011.
There is a set lunch available for £12 for two courses or £15 for three. Sauteed wild mushrooms on rosemary toast were served with a pumpkin puree. This was pleasant enough, the puree tasting of pumpkins and the mushrooms cooked properly (11/20).
The main course was corn-fed chicken breast with pomme mousseline and a “cep and truffle” cream that was really a truffle oil flavoured cream (truffle oil is actually a chemical, and has nothing to do with real truffles). The chicken was cooked well enough but was rather tasteless, as so much chicken is in the UK; the seasoning of the dish was a little salty, even for me (barely 11/20).
The current head chef is Wesley Smalley, who trained under Jean Christophe Novelli.
The notes that follow are from a dinner in August 2010.
The menu sticks to safe bistro territory; starters are £6-£7, main courses £12-£16, vegetables £3.50 on top and desserts £6. The wine list runs to three pages and is organised by style, with a page of more ambitious wines, and is strongest in its coverage of Italy and the USA. Semillon l‘Ecole #41 2007 was listed at £45 for a wine that has a shop price of about £16, and Tuatara Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2009 at £25 compares with a retail price of about £8. Examples at the higher end are the superb Didier Dagenau Pouilly Fume 2004 at £125 compared to a retail price of around £40 or so, and the divine Kistler Dutton Ranch 2007 at £140 for a wine (if you can find it) that can be bought for around £77. Bread, despite being from the entirely respectable Exeter Street bakery, was not good tonight; it is delivered daily yet seemed unduly hard and tasteless (10/20); apparently they are considering making their own bread, which would doubtless be a big improvement.
My starter of mackerel fillet was pan-fried and served with a potato salad with beetroot puree and horseradish cream. The salad elements were fridge cold but otherwise pleasant, but the mackerel itself was a little dried out and, oddly for such a cheap fish, was a very small piece of fish (11/20). Smoked haddock and sweet corn chowder featured decent pieces of haddock, though the soup was a little watery and could have done with bolder seasoning (12/20).
My main course coquelet (spring chicken) was probably the best dish, both breast and leg cooked nicely and offered with some girolles and jus gras (i.e. cooking juices chicken and veal stock) on a bed of slightly soggy greens, with a rather dry macaroni cheese on the side (12/20 overall; the chicken itself was better). A pair of fish cakes was pleasant enough, served with a watery watercress and caper mayonnaise (11/20). Honey glazed carrots on the side had reasonable taste but were slightly overcooked (11/20).
A white chocolate cheesecake was adequately made, served with a raspberry sorbet that could have been smoother – and raspberries in February? (11/20). Strawberry pannacotta was decent (11/20), the best element being an excellent shortbread biscuit as a garnish. Coffee was uninspired, a tiny double espresso that was rather bitter (10/20).
The bill, helped by a soft opening discount, was £38 per person. Service was excellent throughout, the restaurant manager Alex Wrethman knowledgeable and friendly. Overall this was somewhere between 11/20 and 12/20 level for me, showing hints that the cooking could improve beyond this level e.g. the good chicken and shortbread. At prices that are currently quite fair, with an appealing menu, nice room and generally competent cooking, the place should prosper.