Since May 2014 the head chef here has been Lee Cadden, who replaced Ryan Perrat after his remarkably brief tenure. He in turn had taken over from Wesley Smalley, the chef who was there at the opening of the restaurant. Mr Cadden was previously head chef of The Malt House in Fulham. The menu continues to offer a short selection of seasonal dishes. Starters were priced from £5.50 to £8.50, mains £13 to £19, sides dishes £3.50 and desserts £5.50 to £7. At lunch, three courses from the same menu were £18.95. Bread is from the Exeter Street bakery, a fairly token offering of white and brown slices.
The mainly but not exclusively French wine list started at £18 and had wines such as Andre Schere Riesling Reserve Particuliere 2012 at £28 for a wine that you can find in the high street for £10, Claude Courtois Les Cailloux du Paradis Romorantin 2009 at a hefty £58 for a bottle with a retail price of £16, and Stephane Montez Domaine de Monteillet Condrieu 2011 at £75 for a wine that will set you back around £34 in a shop.
A starter of grilled mackerel with cherry tomato with black olive tapenade had properly cooked fish and a quite boldly flavoured tapenade. However the sauce was rather thin and the mackerel itself of good rather than dazzling quality (12/20). I preferred Dorset snails with baby gem lettuce, pig’s head croquette and a garden pea puree. The snails had good texture and the peas tasted fresh, the croquette pleasantly hearty (14/20). Sea bream was pan-fried and served on a bed of peas and broad beans with Brixham crab. The fish was cooked accurately, the peas and beans having good flavour, the small amount of crab rather lost in the dish (13/20).
There is no specialist pastry chef here, and it shows. Doughnut with Granny Smith apples and salted caramel was soggy and needed more sugar, the caramel sauce was very thick, the apples the best element of the dish (10/20). I did not try my dining companion’s lemon meringue pie, but it was not really as described, being a deconstructed version with few broken pieces of meringue. Perhaps this was a subtle culinary reference to Massimo Bottura’s “broken lemon” dish at Osteria Francescana, but I doubt it, and felt like a misleading description.
Service was fine, although when I order a dish that comes with (unannounced) peas, it is odd to let me order a side dish of, er, peas. The bill came to £27 a head all in, which is not excessive. In the evening, if you shared a moderate bottle of wine, a realistic bill would br around £60 a head. Up until dessert I enjoyed this meal, which seemed a notch up from the previous meals I had eaten here under a previous chef. If they can work on the desserts and upgrade the bread then I think they would have a quite attractive customer offering.