Michael Tusk opened Quince in December 2003. Unusually for a chef he has a degree in art history, training at various restaurants in the Mediterranean before returning to California and working at restaurants such as Stars and Chez Panisse. It was nice to see him actually in the restaurant on the night of my visit (some London chefs these days seem too busy promoting their latest book/TV show to actually cook much). The Jackson Square restaurant has a more casual sister, Cotogna, next door. The dining room had well-spaced tables, good quality linen tablecloths and has a much more formal feel to it than Cotogna, Quince seats around 75 customers at any one time.
The wine list was extensive, with plenty of coverage of Italy but also ranging widely, with 14 wines from Austria for example. Almost 50 half bottles alone were offered, the list running to well over 500 choices. Example wines included Gritsch Kalmuck Gruner Veltliner 2010 at $45 for a wine you can find in a shop for around $21, the lovely Jermann Vintage Tunina 2008 at $140 for a wine that retails at $53 and Antinori 1983 Tignanello at $435 for a wine that will set you back $159 to buy in a shop. Bread is made from scratch and is now finished to order and served warm to each diner, and had very good texture (16/20).
Scallop from Nantucket Bay had excellent inherent sweetness, paired with radish, capers and oroblanco grapefruit (actually a cross between pomelo and white grapefruit, having slightly less sharpness than a grapefruit), the acidity of the fruit a nice foil for the sweetness of the scallops without being too sharp (17/20). A little pile of winter vegetables was at the centre of an onion and ash consommé, the soup having very good depth of flavour, the onion taste coming through nicely (16/20).
Next was an enjoyable risotto using carnaroli rice and featuring a little Dungeness crab, kishu mandarin and green garlic; the risotto stock was rich and the rice texture good, the crab flavour perhaps a touch lost, though the mandarin and crab was an interesting and successful pairing (16/20).
Gnocchi had light texture and was paired with black truffle and broccoli, the heady scent of truffle lifting this simple dish; gnocchi is hard to get right, but these were excellent (6/10). Truffle also featured with the next course, tortellini of celeriac and lardo, the pasta carefully cooked, the earthy celeriac flavour working well with the truffle (16/20).
Piccione allo spiedo is a traditional dish of spit-roast pigeon, served in this case with kale, sunchoke and raddicio tardivo. The raddicio was a good pairing for the pigeon's richness, the bird itself cooked pink though not having quite as good flavour as I have encountered in the best quality birds from Anjou (15/20).
The final savoury course was excellent venison (from Millbrook Farm), served with walnut, pear and hedgehog mushroom. The deer had lovely flavour, the pear cut through the richness nicely, and the walnut provided a texture contrast and good additional flavour note (17/20).
The meal concluded with a millefeuille of pistachio with honeycomb, lemon confit and Sicilian pistachio gelato. This was very enjoyable, the pistachio flavour coming through nicely (16/20). Coffee was pleasant rather than outstanding, served with good mignardise.
Service was extremely good throughout the meal, the waiting staff friendly and efficient, the pace of dishes measured. The bill came to $203 (£135) per person before tip, with several glasses of wine. Not cheap for sure, but the standard of cooking was high and there were plenty of expensive ingredients involved in the meal. I really liked Quince, which provided an unusually consistent standard of cooking throughout the many courses and welcoming service. A very civilized meal.