This restaurant in Fitzrovia is a sister to Portland, and opened in July 2016. The executive chef here is Merlin Labron-Johnson, who used to work at Portland, though the kitchen is actually in the hands of head chef Stuart Andrew, who was previously a sous chef at the same restaurant. There was a tasting menu available at £49, or a full a la carte selection. Starters were priced from £6 to £17, plus assorted nibbles from £3.50 to £11. Main courses were £19 to £35, and desserts were £7 to £8. Sourdough bread was made from scratch in the kitchen and charged extra at £3.50. The main wine list was quite short, ranging from £26 to £70. Sample labels were Friedrich Altenkirch Grauschiefer Riesling Trocken 2014 at £37 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £12, Valfaccenda Arneis Roero 2015 at £48 compared to its retail price of £16, and Au Bon Climat Wild Boy Chardonnay 2015 at £70 for a wine that will set you back £28 in a shop. There is, on request, a further list that contains more ambitious labels. Examples from this were d’Arenberg Dead Arm Shiraz at £120 compared to its retail price of £43, Etienne Sauzet Puligny Montrachet 2008 at £180 for a wine whose current market value is £130, and Catena Zapata 1999 at £220 for a wine that costs £114 in a shop.
The dining room has a casual feel, with bare wood tables and an open kitchen. The sourdough bread was the first thing we tasted and was very good indeed, with a nice crust and good texture (15/20). In retrospect I wish we had stopped there. Sea bass crudo came with plums, beetroot and tarragon sauce. This was an unbalanced dish, the flavour of the sea bass entirely overwhelmed by the beetroot and the tarragon; it would be easy to miss the sea bass entirely (barely 11/20). Better was rillette of rabbit, pork and foie gras, served with toasted sourdough. This was fine, and although the foie gras flavour was hard to detect the overall effect was good, the shredded meat not too fatty (13/20).
Sardine and squid ink tempura was served with a pool of dill emulsion and a bed of fermented hispi cabbage. The sardine flavour was oddly subdued, though there was certainly some logic in pairing an oily fish with the pickled cabbage. The tempura batter was rather heavy, especially if I compare it to the many versions I have eaten in Japan, but overall this was decent enough (12/20). Ricotta and pea ravioli came with black pepper and verbena. This dish had a couple of problems: the peas were seriously undercooked, being much too hard. Also the dish was wildly over-salted, and I usually like my dishes on the salty side of things. The pasta itself was decent but this was careless cooking and seasoning (10/20). It was still better than the chicken with sweet corn, radishes and wild rocket. The problem was that the chicken had been charred, and the only thing that we could taste was an overwhelming burnt taste – this went back to the kitchen and we moved on to dessert (7/20).
Chocolate mousse croustillant was topped with nuts, and although the mousse itself was decent, the top layer of the croustillant also had a distinctly burnt flavour (9/20). Apricot clafoutis and whipped mascarpone was a bit better but had a peculiar texture and lacked sufficient apricot (10/20).
Service was fine, with a friendly Canadian waitress serving us. The bill came to £112 per person, albeit with quite a lot of nice wine. If you shared a modest bottle then a typical cost per head for three courses and coffee might be around £75. This was a very erratic meal, starting with genuinely good bread and pleasant rillettes but falling off a cliff as the meal unfolded. At this price I was hoping for a lot better.