Since leaving the three-Michelin-starred world of Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, Clare Smyth has “forged her own special path” – much to the delight of readers who have fallen head over heels in love with her new venture. Core is cor-blimey brilliant rather than a hardcore, haute-cuisine ordeal, complete with the sort of high-end interiors that covetous Notting Hillbillies dream about – think cute handbag stools, feather-light Zalto glassware and Bridget Riley artworks. Unclothed tables, meanwhile, indicate we’re in casual-luxe territory, while “gracious” staff do their very best to make the whole experience extra-special.
The room may be gorgeous in its own right, but everyone is here for food – and rightly so. Readers already have their favourites from Core’s carte and tasting menu: for some it’s the ‘potato and roe’ (actually a dish of skin-on charlotte potato topped with herring and trout roe sitting in a slick of seaweed beurre blanc), while our tip for signature status is the whole carrot topped with braised lamb served alongside a dollop of sheep’s milk yoghurt. These are “smile-inducing” dishes that extract almost unbelievable flavour from the humblest of ingredients.
Elsewhere, brilliant hits abound: a sweet Colchester crab doughnut alongside a glass of crab consommé; an even sweeter Roscoff onion stuffed with rich oxtail to accompany beef short-rib; countless nibbles including crispy smoked duck wings and jellied eel misted with a malt vinegar spray. And then there are the ravishing desserts – exquisitely reimagined versions of cherry Bakewell or warm chocolate tart, for example. Quite simply, this is “the epitome of thoughtful, stylish and technically brilliant gastronomy”.
The “fabulous” French-led wine list is a real head-turner, with plenty of fine drinking below £50, and you can also eat in the handsome bar, which is a cocktail destination in its own right. We’re in no doubt that Core is headed for the very top, and its many fans agree: “One of the best evenings we've ever had in a restaurant. Superb, understated excellence from start to finish”.