There has been a restaurant on this site near St Margaret’s station since 1954. Since 2015 the restaurant has had as its head chef Gianluca di Monaco, who works alone in the kitchen except for a kitchen porter. He had previously worked in the kitchens in the early days of Apsleys, and also had worked as a sous chef for Pierre Koffmann. There is a wine list here but today we took advantage of the modest £20 corkage charge.
Crab rillette was topped with Avruga caviar. The crab was fresh and was most enjoyable, but Avruga caviar is basically a cheap caviar substitute made from herring roe rather than sturgeon. It is not unpleasant, having a slight citrus and smoky flavour, but it isn’t caviar and just seemed unnecessary to me. On the side, the fennel salad had a touch of pickled red onion, whose sourness worked rather well as a contrast to the natural sweetness of the crab (14/20). The best dish of the meal was twice-cooked Gruyere cheese souffle flavoured with summer truffle, which had very good texture. The subtle aroma of the truffle nicely lifted the flavour of the cheese, and the richness was balanced by a side salad. This dish was even better than the last time I tried it here (16/20).
Wood pigeon came with pancetta crisp and swede puree. The pigeon had reasonable flavour but was undercooked, on the underside of rare rather than the medium rare that the waiter described. I would generally prefer meat to be undercooked than overcooked, but this was not quite right. The jus with the pigeon was fine, and I liked the baby onions served with the meat. The pancetta was a nice touch, though the mustard sauce could have done with a touch more bite (11/20). My companion’s duck was a better dish. On the side, gratin dauphinoise had plenty of cheese flavour but been cooked for too long, and the potatoes had become rather mushy. Much better were light cooked sprouting broccoli and haricot verts.
For dessert, lemon crème brulee was nice, with a crisp top and good texture underneath; for me there could have been more lemon flavour, but this was certainly very pleasant (14/20). Coffee was from Monmouth, a good supplier. Service from the solitary waiter was friendly and capable. The bill came to £110 ahead all in. Overall, this was a pleasant though somewhat inconsistent meal. However, the cheese souffle alone makes this is a place worth visiting.