The Hebridean island of Orosay is the inspiration behind this latest restaurant from chef Jackson Boxer (Brunswick House and St Leonard’s), an association that brings a charmingly breezy appeal to one of Notting Hill’s most famous restaurant streets.
Orosay is where Boxer’s family holidays were spent (Jackson’s dad Charlie owns Italo deli in Vauxhall, his mother is the artist Kate Boxer) but here in W11 the island represents the loosest of themes, signifying a preference for cooking with the freshest British seafood and a mood of relaxed simplicity. That might mean fried shrimp, dusted with celery salt, dunked in avocado mayo and eaten whole, anchovy fillets glued to a puffy hunk of fried bread with egg mayonnaise, or whole radishes (leaves and all) half submerged in a punchy slick of tonnato sauce.
Best of all is a scallop shell worthy of Botticelli. A sliced, XL Isle of Mull scallop rests against a cushion of celeriac lapped by a puddle of vin jaune. Garnished with cubes of caramelised shiitake and a scattering of shisho leaves that match the purple lustre of the shell, it is an assembly almost too pretty to eat but that tastes every bit as beautiful as it looks.
Boxer and his business partner and fellow chef Andrew Clarke own an organic farm in West Sussex, so it’s no surprise that vegetable dishes are just as worthy of attention. We loved the clean flavours of mammole artichoke and trombetta courgette shot through with the sweetness of spring peas, and the smoky taste of a dish of grilled Tropea onion, buffalo curd, fermented peppers and burnt honey.
And from the lone pair of meat dishes, our Tamworth pork chop was easily the equal of ibérico de bellota, cooked on the rare side to retain all of its melt-in-the-mouth succulence and needing no more accompaniment than the aniseed tang of roast fennel to cut through the fatty lusciousness.
Puddings include a dark chocolate sponge with coffee sauce that is almost too rich to eat (we preferred the simple pleasures of ripe slices of Comté cheese paired with syrupy Agen prunes) while seven wines on tap make for interesting drinking by the glass and carafe if you don’t want to commit to a bottle from Burgundy or northern Italy.
Kate Boxer’s paintings cover the pale walls in a slim dining room that, with its slouchy linen banquettes, rattan chairs and unclothed oak tables, evokes the boho Notting Hill of old, before the artists shipped out and the bankers muscled in – though so much local money does make this one of the few parts of residential London prosperous enough to support a thriving lunch trade. West London’s media movers and shakers provide brilliant people watching as well as eavesdropping – don’t come hoping to discuss anything confidential at the tightly packed tables, though this highly accomplished and very likeable newcomer will give you plenty to talk about afterwards.