The notes that follow are from my first meal here, in April 2010, soon after it opened.
The menu was priced, at the time of writing, at £55 for three courses, with lunch at just £25. Sean Burbidge is technically the head chef, though executive chef Mark Askew seemed firmly in charge in the kitchen tonight. The 31 page wine list has plenty of French choices, but also ranges around the world. Egon Muller Qba 2007 was listed at £52 for a wine that you can buy for around £16 in the shops, Thelema Sauvignon Blanc 2008 was £34 for a wine with a retail price of around £10, Ata Rangi 2007 Pinot Noir was £85 for a £27 wine, Guigal La Turque 1996 was £546 compared to a retail price of around £178. For investment bankers celebrating, Petrus 1961 was an absurd £49,500 for a wine you can buy for £6,436 retail. Bread was from the Bread Factory, and was a choice of white or brown sourdough – pleasant enough for bought-in bread (15/20).
As you browse through the menu you are presented with two types of popcorn: sweet paprika, or black pepper and lemon. These were pleasant enough though popcorn is just popcorn, at the end of the day. Fried polenta flavoured with Parmesan or black olive, with a tomato sauce, was again competent but for me uninteresting. The proper amuse bouche was much better: a superbly deep flavoured onion soup, topped with chives, and a little onion at the base of the soup to add texture. This was perfectly seasoned and had intense flavour (18/20).
My starter was a line of scallops with cauliflower, anchovy and caper, topped with beurre noisette. The scallops were beautifully cooked and sweet, the accompaniments logical and well executed (18/20). Roast langoustine tails were served in a intensely flavoured watercress soup with a little confit potato. The langoustines themselves were carefully cooked, the watercress soup well-seasoned (17/20). Crispy veal sweetbread with choucroute was impressive, served with carrots and a well-judged sherry vinegar sauce, a good balance for the sweetbreads (17/20). There was a full vegetarian menu, from which a deconstructed Nicoise salad was excellent (16/20).
My main course of roasted fillet of beef was superbly executed, 25 day aged Casterbridge beef with braised shin of beef, baked celeriac and a rich Barolo sauce (easily 17/20). Even better was a superb pork fillet with Bayonne ham, black pudding, creamed cabbage and Madeira sauce, the pork beautifully moist (18/20). The only technical problem of the meal was a roast lobster tail that was significantly over-cooked, served with a braised pork belly that was a little dry, with baby gem lettuce and cider sauce (14/20). The vegetarian option was a lovely pithivier of morels and ceps, the pastry superb, the mushrooms having excellent flavour (17/20).
There was a rather odd choice of cheese, St Simeon served with beetroot (?!?). We skipped this and went for dessert. A pre-dessert of lemon and marscapone mousse was enjoyable, light and refreshing (16/20). Chocolate sphere with milk ice cream and honeycomb was delicate yet rich (17/20). Marinated pineapple was prettily presented with coconut pannacotta, lime and chilli syrup (17/20). Coffee soup was poured over a very good hazelnut financier steeped in liquor (17/20). Coffee was rich, served with chocolates made in Kent, and roasted almonds. Front of house was slick, the service friendly and very efficient. The bill was £138 per head, which included pre-dinner drinks and dessert wine. I was very pleasantly surprised by this meal, which just in its third week showed just one technical error in many courses, and dish after dish at a high level.
Further reviews: 16th Apr 2012