05 January 2011
A belated review from the soft opening in December – it was one of their first nights, and the fact that they managed to impress so much on that visit is hopefully a very good sign.
First of all, the rooms. We sat in the back room, with a view of the open kitchen (the front room is where the bar is, and where cheese and charcuterie are served, and it seemed a bit buzzier there on the night we visited). It's not a formal, white tablecloth, gleaming cutlery sort of place; the furniture looks reclaimed, the walls are white, there are big windows onto the street, there's a variety of tables and counters to eat at, and it's quite basic and homely. It reminded me of evenings spent sitting in friends' kitchens, able to relax and eat as you please.
Service was sweet and friendly – eager to discuss the history and sourcing of the wine and the food, and wanting to please without being intrusive.
A warning: it's hard to limit yourself to a sensible amount of food because each section on the menu (Taste Ticklers, Pig, Plancha, etc) begs to be explored. We tried something from each: well-sourced charcuterie ranging from the familiar to some more daring options (a kind of brain/blood sausage on our visit), lovely soft pork rillettes, grilled prawns, clams in a gorgeous buttery sherry broth, an italian version of steak tartare, monkfish cheeks, and a stunning duck and salsify pie that was packed with meat and that I could eat every day. I've lost the paper menu that I took away – it seemed to be mainly meat and fish, but the vegetarian dishes included a nicely dressed salad, a vegetable gratin and a good cheese selection, with plenty of chewy sourdough bread to mop everything up with. I'd like to have explored the puddings more, but had to limit myself to sharing a perfect iles flottantes, sprinkled with crunchy caramel. We left the wine selection to our waiter and drank several different glasses, all of which were good. We were busy discussing and exploring the food on our first visit and didn't pay much attention to what is probably a very good wine list, based on my experience of their sister restaurant.
The menu seems to change regularly, according to other accounts I've read, so it's a place that's well worth visiting on a regular basis. The food isn't overly fussy, which is a plus. It's interesting, well-sourced, well-prepared, and the menu has been put together with a lot of thought that allows you to create whatever kind of meal you feel like eating on the night. I'd be happy to call in for some charcuterie and cheese, or to have a much larger meal. I'm looking forward to exploring the wine list further because I imagine as much thought has been put into it as the food menu.