Tom Ilic was once head chef at Bonds, but this simple Battersea venue is his first venture as chef patron. The dining room is fairly nondescript, in a parade of shops with a simple room divided into two. Decor is basic but welcoming. The lunch menu (no a la carte was available at lunch) is a very fair £14.95 for three courses, with a choice of three dishes for each course. Sometimes restaurant lunch menus are only superficially bargains, with the very cheapest ingredients on offer, but here were scallops and sea bass in amongst the lentil soup, so it was hard to argue with the pricing. In the evening starters were £4.75 - £7.50, main courses £9.75 - £13.50, desserts mostly £4.50. The wine list veered strongly towards France, but there are some offerings from outside e.g. Chateau Musar at £45, and a few pleasant New World choices; there were five simple dessert wines by the 100 ml glass (why some restaurateurs insist on being stingy with dessert wine servings is beyond me, but that is another story). Bread was, unusually, home-made, of two varieties; I found both to have pleasant texture and had a decent salt content, but were seemed to lack much in the way of taste, a little odd given they are made fresh each day rather than bought-in.
My starter of goat cheese salad had a nice piece of warm goat cheese in good condition and reasonable fresh leaves that would have benefited by further dressing; however the dish suffered from rock-hard croutons (12/20 overall if I overlook the crouton, for which a diamond drill would have been more appropriate than a knife and fork). A trio of scallops were seared a little too hard, losing a little of their sweet flavour in the process. These were served with a nicely cooked piece of honey-roast belly pork, some decent spinach and some rather tasteless puree of what purported to be Jerusalem artichokes but did not appear to be by the colour and in reality tasted of very little indeed (12/20). Some slightly superfluous vegetables sold separately were light and correctly cooked French beans, and some pleasant boiled potatoes.
Pear tarte tatin had reasonable pastry but the pear was not sufficiently caramelised, served with cinnamon ice cream that had good texture but again rather lacked in cinnamon taste. Coffee (at £2.20) was not very impressive, a little bitter. Service was friendly, though the waitress forgot to bring a fork for dessert and was nowhere to be seen; since the restaurant was literally empty we simply helped ourselves to some from a nearby table, but given that the place was not exactly buzzing this seemed a little careless.
Overall I can see this place succeeding as a pleasant local restaurant in an area that needs better places, but I was a little surprised by the minor slips in the cooking given Tom Ilic’s previous track record (and he was there in the kitchen today). My knowledgeable dining companion seemed to fare a little better than I did with his dishes, but a restaurant kitchen needs to be consistent in its delivery.