Gazelle is a collaboration between London’s foremost bartender and drinks expert Tony Conigliaro, of Untitled and Bar Termini fame, and the equally mellifluously named chef Rob Roy Cameron. The red-and-gold dining room is on the first floor of a Mayfair townhouse and the sultry bar on the floor above; a broken lift, alas, rather took the sheen off the louche members’ club vibe, making the drama of arrival high-impact for all the wrong reasons.
Cameron has worked with brothers Ferran and Albert Adrià, opening 41 Degrees in Barcelona for Albert. The time spent with the high priests of avant-garde haute cuisine is immediately apparent in the arresting presentation of the menu of half-a-dozen small plates, which seems intended both to delight and provoke. But on our visit we found that despite some prime ingredients, the striking visuals were not backed up by balanced flavours – or sometimes any flavour.
A deep-fried, edible anchovy skeleton was a new taste sensation for us, but was draped across an indifferent herb salad. Mushrooms with pine nut and wild garlic, and leek with chicken and chive, both tasted as beige as they looked. The innate superiority of Wagyu beef was muffled by the onslaught of a juniper and salted plum crust that gave it the appearance of an old piece of oxblood leather, while a blameless piece of presa was no match for an assertive purée of salted carrots, as vividly orange as an autumn sunset.
So many low-carb dishes, meanwhile, left us enthusiastically thanking the staff whenever they asked if we’d like more of the terrific fennel and spelt rolls.
The best things we ate were in the bar: a Parmesan crisp filled with frozen yeast butter that tasted like a gourmet Tuc cracker; a gamy cigar of marbled beef glistening with a dollop of caviar; and a spicy mouthful of tuna tartare. And while Conigliaro’s cocktails might be small, they pack an almighty punch. We wish the same could be said of the small plates downstairs.