Silver Birch opened in October 2020, taking over the premises in the Chiswick High Road that used to house a café called Brew. The head chef is Kimberley Hernandez, a Canadian who was formerly head chef at Kyms and also head pastry chef at St John. She previously worked at the two-star Matthias Dahlgren in Stockholm, having also trained at Dinner by Heston. The dining room has tables mostly set in booths that are separated by glass screens. This is a good Covid-19 precaution and also has the effect of reducing conversation noise from nearby tables. The menu is European in style, with some slightly unusual touches as we shall see.
The wine list had 38 labels and ranged in price from £25 to £119, with a median price of £42 and an average markup to retail price of 2.93 times, which is tolerable by London standards. Sample references were Alpha Zeta ‘P’ Pinot Grigio 2019 at £28 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £10, Innocent Bystander Chardonnay 2018 at £42 compared to its retail price of £20, and John Duva ‘Entity’ Barossa Shiraz 2016 at £72 for a wine that will set you back £36 in the high street. For those with the means there was Jean Javillier Volnay 1er Cru ‘Clos des Chenes’ 2017 at £93 compared to its retail price of £32, and Chateau Margaux Segla 2014 at £99 for a wine whose current market value is £36. As an alternative, corkage was £25.
Sourdough bread was excellent, with a good crust and just enough acidity, the bread supplied by “Bread Bread” in Brixton. Dodoni feta cheese with roasted piquillo peppers served on chicory leaves with a dressing of red wine vinegar and olive oil. There was a garnish of mizuna (a Japanese leafy vegetable), dried Kalamata olives and English cucumber. This was nicely presented and the bitterness of the chicory provided balance to the cheese (13/20).
I tried a “blooming onion” dish that resembled an onion bhajia, with a sweet white-skinned onion called Finejza that had been marinated in buttermilk and cumin, then coated in potato starch, corn starch and rice flour before frying, and served with crispy kale and a puree of cep cream. The kale was a nice idea to balance the dish, but for me the batter was not quite crisp enough (12/20).
Maris piper potato and Savoy cabbage gratin was cooked with sweet onion, garlic, and cream along with wholegrain mustard. This was topped with a Parmesan tuile dusted in powdered chlorella, a green algae with a taste resembling seaweed, along with lemon zest and crumbled fried kale. The gratin had a pleasant spicy kick from the mustard used, the texture good and the chlorella an interesting contrast (13/20).
I had Iberico schnitzel made using pluma, a cut from the neck end of the pork loin, fried in a batter of panko breadcrumbs. The pork had good flavour and the batter was crisp, garnished with capers, and served with steamed hispi cabbage in a lemon dressing. On the side was a puree of King Edward potatoes made rather like a mayonnaise, with white wine vinegar and Dijon mustard, that had smooth texture and a gentle kick from the mustard (13/20). On the side were some precisely cooked seasonal greens with a little lemon that added a pleasing sharpness. The dish reminded me of the Chinese broccoli dish gai lan (14/20). Garlic new potatoes were also fine, fried carefully and nicely seasoned (13/20).
The head chef’s background including being a head pastry chef, and this really showed in the desserts. Knickerbocker glory is an ice cream sundae that dates back to the 1920s. The version here featured raspberry sorbet, chocolate ice cream, a few fresh raspberries and pieces of chocolate-flavoured meringue using Belgian dark chocolate. It all worked really well, despite it not being raspberry season. The balance of the dish and the mix of textures was lovely (14/20). I also enjoyed a long éclair made using the Italian meringue method with lemon mascarpone curd and lemon zest. This had excellent texture and just enough sharpness from the lemon to balance the cream (14/20).
Coffee was from Assembly Coffee in Brixton, and was very good. I was impressed by the quality of the service, with a manager who used to work at La Trompette and a waiter who was able to describe the dishes in considerable detail and answer every question, without reference to the kitchen; it turned out that he had once worked at Le Manoir au Quat’ Saisons. The bill came to £63 per person, which is quite near what a typical meal would cost per person, assuming three courses, coffee and a shared bottle of simple wine. Overall, I enjoyed Silver Birch, with the desserts in particular showing the serious pedigree of the chef. The savoury dishes had the odd element that could be developed, but Silver Birch is certainly a very useful addition to the neighbourhood, which has quite a few chains but not nearly enough independent restaurants.