Five Fields was how this part of Chelsea was described on an 18th century map of the area, though it is hard to imagine that these days in a location that is a short walk from Sloane Square. As of May 2013 it is now home to a restaurant of that name, has a youthful chef/owner with the wonderful name Taylor Bonnyman, who is British with an American mother, and who worked at Corton in New York. The actual head chef is Marguerite Keogh, who has worked at Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley. It is on the site of former Spanish restaurant El Blason, but this was no lick of paint makeover, with a new basement being dug out as part of an eighteen month building project; clearly some serious investment has been made.
The wine list had over 200 choices, ranging in price from £29 to £495, with a median price of £68 and a average mark-up of 2.7 times retail price. Example wines were Heathcote Greenstone Vineyard Syrah 2009 at £52 for a wine that you can buy in the high street for £19, Cristom Vineyard Jessie Pinot Noir 2008 at £98 for a wine that will cost you £37 in the shops, and Antinori Tignanello 2009 at £145 for a wine that retails at £65.
The dining room seats just forty diners, and is smartly decorated, with panels of patterned duck-egg blue tiles. Tables were dressed with proper white linen tablecloths, chairs having cream upholstery. The tables, some an unusual oval shape, were fairly well spaced, though the wooden floor means that noise levels are a little high when busy, as it was on the evening that we visited. At least the volume of the music being played was low. Three courses were priced at just £45, a tasting menu at £65, a level that probably reflects the early days of the restaurant.
A plate of nibbles included gougeres whose choux pastry was a little hard but had good cheese flavour, tomato pain perdu, and salt beef with mustard and pickled cucumber (5/10). A bay and cape gooseberry tonic then appeared in a little bowl; I am not sure what the point of this was. Breads were made from scratch and comprised sourdough, black olive roll and campaillou. These were very good, the olive bread having deep olive flavour, the sourdough a light, airy texture and good crust (6/10).
Orkney scallops were seared and accurately cooked, having enjoyable inherent sweetness. These were served with cauliflower and pistachio, the latter giving an interesting contrast of texture (6/10). “The garden” was a prettily arranged dish of vegetables from the Sussex farm of the owner. Here artichokes, asparagus, beetroot, courgettes, radishes and cauliflower were paired with purees of morels, cep and aubergine and garnished with edible flowers. This was an elaborate and unusual dish, perhaps taking inspiration from the gargouillou dish of Michel Bras (5/10).
The only technical slip of the meal came with the main course of Dover sole, horseradish cream, butter emulsion, apple foam and oyster leaves. The fish was cooked sous-vide, and for whatever reason by the time the plate arrived the fish was barely warm. The horseradish cream was a good accompaniment, but Dover sole is too good an ingredient to be wasted in this way (3/10). My chicken (Cotswold white) was much better, the breast meat nicely cooked, the leg cooked as confit and served with charred leeks, a slow-poached hen yolk and brown almond puree. This was a very successful dish (5/10).
Pastry chef Chris Underwood worked with Tom Aikens before this, so clearly has a good pedigree. He does seem to enjoy putting shrubbery in many of his desserts, as illustrated with a pre-dessert of lemon thyme financier, apple puree and tarragon sorbet. The textures were fine and the financier well made, but ignoring my own dislike of hedgerow-infested desserts, are apple, lemon thyme, and tarragon a logical and appealing pairing of tastes? Not for me (2/10).
Better was strawberries and cream served with champagne sabayon and Italian shortbread with spiced strawberry jam. This was a sophisticated take on the classic flavour combination of strawberries and cream; the biscuit went well with the fruit, the sabayon was elegant and the elements worked well as on overall dish (5/10). My dessert involved rhubarb cannelloni, saffron custard roulade, rhubarb sorbet, rhubarb jell and salted milk crumble with candied pistachios. The trouble was that the cannelloni was soggy, and the rhubarb was surprisingly lacking in acidity, so the overall effect did not work that well, though the candied pistachios were a nice touch (3/10). Coffee, a Nespresso black ristretto blend, was good (£3.50 a cup). This came with good passion fruit marshmallow and a nicely made white chocolate with cocoanut and lime, amongst other petit fours.
Service throughout the evening was very good. Our waiter was that rarest of creatures: an English waiter in London, and he was attentive and helpful. The bill came to £112 a head with a bottle of JJ Prum and pre-dinner drinks. If you stuck to modest wine then a total bill around £75 a head would be possible. Overall, although not everything worked perfectly, the Five Fields was certainly a nice change from the achingly trendy restaurant openings that have dominated the London scene recently. The menu had appealing dishes, the ingredient quality was good and the cooking technique generally of a high standard.