The Ninth may be a Charlotte Street veteran these days, but Jun Tanaka’s exquisite cooking remains as fantastic as ever, and for our money The Ninth is still one of the best restaurants in these parts.
Sultry browns dominate the dining room, from dark wood floors and chestnut tables to a plush, chocolate brown leather banquette, which runs the length of the wall. The Ninth feels chic and refined but still relaxed - Tanaka’s background is very white tablecloth but there are none here, and the walls are an abstract collage of old plaster and exposed brickwork. The service too is just the right balance of attentive and friendly.
We kick things off with an elegant plate of torched mackerel, each dainty mackerel slice adorned with a sliver of kohlrabi and a shard of pickled lemon. It’s simple, but exquisite. Two pasta courses raise the bar even further - Tanaka’s signature dish of pipe rigati pasta with winter truffle and egg yolk is another example of less is more done well, and jet black cuttlefish malloreddus comes with crispy squid and bottarga, delving into multiple layers of saline funkiness.
Two main dishes - roast cod, ‘nduja, panisse and Jerusalem artichoke, and roast duck with radicchio, pear and daikon, were well executed too, though perhaps they don’t quite achieve the heights of the pasta. The cod had a perfect flake, and the duck was a beautiful rose pink, balanced gently amid sweet and bitter notes from the accompaniments. At £35 and £34 respectively, though, they aren’t cheap. Dessert portions are hefty, and another taste of the pain perdu with vanilla ice cream - also a Tanaka signature - reveals that, spoiler alert, it’s still delicious.
We suspect that people often sleep on The Ninth, because there’s always something new and exciting opening nearby. On this evidence, Tanaka will be here for a long time to come - we’ll be back for more pasta and pain perdu.