Editor's note: As of end May 2015 the premises was closed, their web site claiming that it would be moving to a new location.
John Burton-Race’s colourful career included a stint as sous chef at Le Manoir au Quat’ Saisons and head chef at l’Ortolan and the Landmark Hotel, winning two stars for both while he was working there. He opened the New Angel (a reference to the Dartmouth restaurant that he used to run) in May 2014. The man behind the stoves on a day-to-day basis, and certainly this evening, is Stephen Humphries, who trained with the Roux brothers and worked at properties from Amsterdam to South Africa; he had previously worked with Mr Burton-Race at Sanctum on the Green in Cookham Dean. The restaurant is on the ground floor of a quiet Notting Hill street, with the entirely separate Italian restaurant Assagi upstairs. The dining room has wooden floor and brown walls, with quite good lighting due to several skylights and extensive use of mirrors. A tasting menu was available at £75, with three courses £54, and a set lunch menu at £32 for three courses. There was also a full vegetarian tasting menu.
The wine list had around 200 labels, ranging in price from £25 to £1,505. The list was heavily oriented towards French regions, though there were some interesting choices such as a Greek and a Japanese wine. Markups were unkind all the way up through the list, averaging a markup level of around three and a half times the retail price, plus service. Soave Classico "Capitel Tenda ' Tedeschi was £36 for a wine that you can find in the high street for £9 or so, Sauvignon Blanc, Ventolera Leyda was £43 for a wine that retails at £13, and Château Le Boscq St Estèphe was £85 for a wine that you can find in a shop for £31. There was no relief higher up the list. Solaia Piero Antinori 2002 was £399 for a wine that can be purchased for £120, Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1985 was £1,450 yet you can buy it retail for £612, and even the Ausone Premier Grand Cru 2001 at £1,505 compares to a retail price of £624, an absurdly high cash markup. The Hungarian sommelier was very pleasant and has clearly put some thought into the list, but he does not set the prices.
Bread was bought in from Boulangerie de Paris, with slices of either brown, white soda or baguette offered. This is a good supplier but the bread was a touch dry (13/20). Amuse bouche was cured salmon trout with mustard sauce and little beetroot cubes. This was simple but pleasant, the mustard sauce blobs going nicely with the trout, the beetroot cut so fine that it did not add much in the way of flavour (13/20).
Things looked up with a starter of Cornish lobster salad with potatoes and summer truffles, tarragon mayonnaise and Bloody Mary sauce. The lobster was tender and had nice inherent sweetness, though the sauce was just a smear so added little flavour. Memo to UK chefs – bring back sauce in volumes that you can taste (14/20). Also good was terrine of foie gras with apricot puree, served with green beans in truffle honey and slices of toasted brioche on the side. This had good flavour and pleasant texture, the brioche nicely soft, the beans tender and the apricot providing a little balancing fruit (14/20).
Turbot was the only rather flawed dish of the meal. It was caught the day before on a day boat, but was somewhat overcooked, so its flavour did not come through as it might have done. It was served with baby artichokes, sauce vierge, heritage tomatoes and distinctly soggy gnocchi (12/20). Much better was langoustine with fillet of sea trout, with sea purslance and a little reduction of shellfish. The langoustine had good flavour and was tender, the trout also carefully prepared (14/20).
For dessert, a deconstructed strawberry millefeuille had pleasant pastry, lemon curd, reasonable quality fruit, Italian meringue, good strawberry sorbet and pointless sorrel garnish. The lemon curd brought useful freshness to the dish, which worked well (14/20). Better still was a really top-notch pistachio soufflé, reminiscent of the classic version at Koffmanns. This was served with a rather odd pairing of banana ice cream (why?) and a more logical accompaniment of rum and chocolate sauce. The soufflé itself was genuinely classy, with lovely nut flavour, very light texture and even cooking; I have eaten many worse soufflés in Michelin starred restaurants (17/20). Coffee (£5) was very good, served with a trio of capable petit fours made in the kitchen.
Service was friendly and very attentive, with topping up of water, wine and bread carefully dealt with. There was also no trouble in getting attention to order extra drinks etc. It was a little fussy and a touch old-fashioned, but I will settle for that over some too-cool-for-service tattooed hipster waiter any day. The bill came to £117 a head all in, but that was with plenty of good wine. If you shared a bottle of modest wine then a typicall all-in bill per head would be around £90. Overall, this was a very pleasant dining experience. The cooking here is not trying to push any boundaries, but uses good quality ingredients and is competent, with the odd touch of genuine talent as illustrated by the souffle. Mr Burton-Race is a controversial character, and judging by social media reaction to the restaurant opening seems to elicit some hostility from some parts of the industry, but I am interested only in whether his restaurant can deliver a good meal. On the evidence this evening it can, albeit at a high price point.