Let me cut straight to the point. I loved this place and think it’s the best new restaurant in Chelsea. My advice would be to pick up the phone now, and make a booking before they get completely full.
Medlar is the first restaurant venture of Joe Mercer Nairne, previously sous chef at Chez Bruce, and before that, the Savoy Grill. David O’Connor was previously the manager at The Square. Medlar is located near the World’s End on the site where the Indian restaurant ‘Vama’ used to be. The ground-floor dining room is in three sections, with a skylight in the back section, but I particularly like the booths in the middle section, or if you’re lucky on a rare sunny day, have a table outside. Word has been spreading slowly and steadily over the last couple of months on how delicious the Modern European food is, the suprisingly good value of the menu, and the unpretentious and friendly feeling of the staff.
The decor is very simple, with lime green tones and some art work on the walls that looks like it has some sentimental value to the owners instead of just random pieces that might work well with the look of the restaurant.
The menu is prix fixe, which means you can have 3 courses for £25 at lunch, £38 for dinner and £30 at Sunday Lunch. When you have tasted the food I’m about to show you, I hope you’d agree that’s pretty damn good value, especially in Chelsea.
I was impressed by their freshly made rosemary focaccia, which was light and fluffy. I then started with the Duck egg tart with red wine sauce, turnip purée, lardons, young sorrel and sautéed duck heart. I have never knowingly eaten duck heart before, so I thought I’d give it a go. Firstly, the actual tart pastry was near perfect, buttery, not too heavy, not too crispy and easy to cut. The expected richness of the duck egg yolk complimented the earthy turnip purée and the meaty taste of the duck heart, I was expecting a taste more in line with liver or kidney. But I’m not complaining, because the skill in which these flavours were balanced and executed in this dish was extremely impressive. I was already beginning to get more excited about this restaurant. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been to a restaurant where I notably over-heard other tables making comments like ” That sauce is ridiculously good” or “Jesus christ, that’s amazing” and a lot of “mmmm’s” and “oh my god’s”. And I’m not exaggerating about this!
My two dining companions both ordered the Crab raviolo with samphire, brown shrimps, fondue of leeks and bisque sauce to start. I had asked the waiter before we ordered what were the best starters, and he said that the Crab Raviolo was selling like hot cakes, that evening alone, out of 50 orders, 30 people had ordered it. I had a taste, and it was another winning dish. Freshly made pasta, cooked al dente, tightly wrapped around freshly picked crab in a delicate and moreish bisque.
For the main, I had the under blade fillet with persillade snails, salad, triple cooked chips and béarnaise. I had never heard of under blade fillet, the waiter was explaining how this was a similar cut of beef to bavette and was from under the shoulder of the cow. The beef was, pink, tender and incredibly flavoursome. The triple cooked chips were crispy and fluffy (I just needed two more to have a perfect ratio with the steak!), and this was served with a very impressive silky béarnaise, with just the right balance of tarragon and vinegar. The tender snails, did add a touch of garlic to the dish, and I did like them, but I could have very easily gone without.
And so on to dessert. I’ve never been a big dessert person, but because of the 3 course prix fixe menu, I decided to give them a go. I had the Buttermilk pannacotta with English strawberries, pistachios and financier, and my companions had the Chocolate and almond torte with honeycomb ice cream and caramel sauce. This was the moment in the meal where other tables near us had to hear our groans of “Jesus, this is good” etc. I would recommend both desserts to anyone if you come here. I am not going to elaborate, because I think most people know what a chocolate torte and a pannacotta taste like. These particular ones, were just perfectly executed with the ability to make you shake your head in disbelief after every mouthful. The Union coffee was of high quality as well.
Apart from the phenomenal food that I’ve gushed about a tad too much, one of the reasons I think this is going to be one of the great Chelsea restaurants is the service and ambience. Throughout our meal, our waiter was extremely friendly, relaxed and very informative. The ambience is the same, Not stuffy at all, just a small buzz of a relaxed local restaurant. I’d also like to make special note of the sommelier, Clement Robert (Young Sommelier of the Year), who has made an interesting and bold wine list, and doesn’t mind any question you throw at him. The passion and knowledge he had about wines to recommend and the stories behind them were very commendable. We ended up going for a recommendation of his, an Italian white wine called “Ribolla Gravner” , which apparently the winemakers bury the barrels in the ground during the production process. It had the colour of whisky (I’d never seen a white wine like it!) and it complimented all the dishes.
The quintessential Chelsea neighbourhood restaurant is back. And boy, have Joe and David got it right on all levels. Great value, stunning flavours with friendly and informative service. I’m going back this week to start eating my way through the menu, and at these prices, why not?
Average price per head for three course meal including a bottle of House wine and service: £45
Price for 3 courses:
Sunday Lunch: £30
438 King’s Road
Chelsea SW10 0LJ
Tel: 020 7349 1900
Nearest tubes: Sloane Square, South Kensington or Fulham Broadway
(All about 20 Mins walk)
If you’re ambling around the London Eye, and wonder past the street performers who probably wouldn’t get through the first round of Britain’s got Talent, you will see a silver trailer under Hungerford Bridge in which the Pitt Cue Co. are residing for the next couple of months.
In this vessel, they are cooking up some mean authentic American barbecue dishes. There are only a few dishes on the menu but this is definitely quality over quantity. They are serving Gloucester Old Spot pulled pork, salt beef brisket, pork ribs, rotisserie chicken and sometimes chicken wings. Most of these dishes have been spice-rubbed, smoked over hickory and slow-cooked over ten hours. You choose one of these “proteins” and then decide between BBQ beans or ‘Slaw. You also get a some pickles and a chunk of grilled bread. This will cost you £7, which I think is great value for the effort and love that has gone into making these dishes.
I would also recommend trying a “Pickleback with skin”. This is a shot of Bourbon, then a shot of pickle juice, and then you nibble on the “skin” which is some lovely and crisp pork crackling. It definitely wakes you up! The Pickleback is an old tradition that was created in Brooklyn or some say the deep south of America. But wherever it originated, I love the originality and ingenuity of the guy who runs the Pitt Cue Co, because something like the Pickleback is a perfect marketing tool, where customers and especially food bloggers love spreading the word for this kind of thing, but first and foremost it is fun to do and gets your friends and family involved!
When I was there, they had run out of salt beef brisket and pork ribs, so I went for the pulled pork with ‘slaw. I was really impressed with the flavours, I thought it was going to bash me over the head with typical BBQ flavours you get at other American joints in England, but this had a touch of spiciness and the balance of the spices used really made it a moreish, flavoursome dish. The pork was incredibly tender and went really well with the ‘slaw, but when I go again I would definitely get the BBQ beans, because I tried a nibble of my buddy’s and they echoed my sentiments of the pork, well spiced and not too over-powering. You also get a grilled chunk of freshly made bread which is great for mopping up any juices or scooping.
I can’t wait to go back to try the salt beef brisket, pork ribs and rotisserie chicken!
Great value, and as close as you’re going to get to authentic American BBQ fare this side of the pond. £7 for the food, and then a touch more for a couple of local ales.
Pitt Cue Co.
Under Hungerford Bridge (2 Mins from London Eye)
London SE1 8XX
Open 1pm – 10pm(ish) 7 days a week
Note: They do run out of certain dishes sometimes, so you will have to try your luck or go more than once! But it won’t disappoint (if it does, a pickleback’s on me*)
Follow them on Twitter: @PittCueCo
*This statement is not legally binding 😉
I have always considered the River Cafe a Mecca. I was trained by Jamie Oliver, who got his big break while working at the River Cafe many years ago. He was spotted by a tv crew who were filming a programme about the restaurant. They interviewed him, and they liked his skill, enthusiam, cheeky charm and quite importantly being able to talk while prepping and cooking dishes! They asked him to do a pilot for “The Naked Chef” and the rest is history. His teachings to me really shaped my attitude and approach to food and cooking today. My style of food and the ethos of seasonality, respecting the produce and the importance of where it is sourced from. I was always going to be excited about going to the River Cafe because this is where my teacher learnt the values that he passed on to me.
The River Cafe is an iconic London institution which created a new wave of simple, seasonal cooking with a focus on incredibly good quality ingredients. In the late eighties, Richard Rogers had just set up his office at Thames Wharf, in Hammersmith, and he was keen for the development to be not just offices but a community, this meant having somewhere for everyone to eat. Through their love of food and their regular trips to Italy, Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray took on the challenge of running the cafe.
The result was The River Cafe, which opened in 1987. Rose and Ruth sourced ingredients, cultivated relationships with wine-makers in Italy, and worked all hours of the day. To begin with there were just Rose, Ruth, one waiter and one kitchen porter. Rose said “Italian food in London was spaghetti Bolognese and tiramisu” and she wanted to change that. She wanted to cook the kind of food she had eaten and prepared while living in Italy – grilled meats, bread soups and pasta.
In 1998 the River Cafe earned a Michelin star, which it has kept ever since. There was a fire in 2008 and the restaurant had to close for six months, but this in a way was a good chance to modernise and re-furbish the place. Also, sadly Rose Gray died in February of 2010, but you can still see Ruth (I’m told) most days in the restaurant checking standards are up to scratch.
When you walk in to the restaurant, it’s very open and bright. The open kitchen still looks brand new and modern, and the wood fired oven is a thing of beauty (I wish I had it in my back garden!). The olive oil that is served with the bread is of fantastic quality, dark green with a grassy and peppery taste. For the starter I had the Taglierini (like tagliatelle but thinner) con Ortiche, which is pasta with nettles. This may sound strange to some, but it was fantastic. First of all, I would recommend having a pasta dish here, because it will probably be some of the finest, freshest pasta you can get in the country. The nettles made the pasta bright green, and it tasted like a mixture of spinach and watercress, with a hum of nutmeg. This really woke up my taste buds and was a great way to start the meal. The birthday girl who I was with, had the wood-fire oven roasted Langoustines, which I managed to steal a nibble, and they were incredibly fresh and the juicy flesh were very flavoursome.
For the main, I had the Ligurian Fish stew, with Dorset Blue Lobster, clams, scallops, monkfish, red mullet, chilli and tomato. I can’t say too much about this, apart from it was phenomenal. All the fresh fish cooked to perfection, and the flavour and aroma of the tomato sauce was deep and just made me feel like I was on holiday in Italy. The only point I’d change is to have added a touch more chilli, but that is just personal preference.
For dessert I had the famous Chocolate Nemesis. This seems like an incredibly simple chocolate cake, almost mousse. But it is notoriuosly hard to cook, because you have to get the texture just right while cooking in a bain marie or it will be dry. This was truly glorious, richly flavoured, smooth and surprisingly light. It uses just four ingredients (eggs, sugar, dark chocolate and butter), which sums up everything I know about the restaurant. We should all try and recreate this! Recipe link here
The service was friendly throughout and very informative. What I like about the staff and the River cafe ethos is that the waiters help the kitchen pick the herbs and handle the produce, and also sit down in the restaurant near the end of a service while customers are still there and eat as a team. This not only builds a good team morale but also makes them know every little item on the menu and makes them care about it.
One of, if not the best authentic Italian restaurant in London. It is very expensive, around £80+ per head, but if you can afford it or for a special occasion, it is definitely worth going to. This is all about taking incredible ingredients and cooking them in an incredibly simple old school Italian way and letting the food speak for itself. Give me this kind of food over a “typical” michelin restaurant any day, where there is usually more thought about the presentation and re-shaping of ingredients, than the actual overall flavour of the dish. The freshly made pasta as I have mentioned earlier is some of the finest in the country. Go, when you next have a special occasion or your friend who has an expense account is hungry.
The River Café
London, W6 9HA
Tel: 0207 386 4200
Meal per head including a bottle of wine and service: £80
The Harwood arms is a one Michelin starred Gastro-pub which serves British food and is a collaboration between Brett Graham of the Ledbury restaurant, Mike Robinson of the Pot Kiln pub in Berkshire and Edwin Vaux from the Vaux brewery. Their idea they say is “to provide Londoners with a really relaxed venue for eating the finest British produce, cooked amazingly well, accompanied by excellent beer and wine at a great price.” Interestingly, in February 2011 Head Chef Barry Fitzgerald took over from ex-Ledbury chef Stephen William’s in the kitchen. Stephen William’s hard work and originality really put the Harwood on the map and without him I do not think that they would have been awarded a Michelin star in 2010, the first pub in London to have this accolade.
I went for a friend’s birthday dinner on a friday night. The pub is about 5 minutes walk from Fulham broadway. Looks-wise, it is still definitely a charming pub, with vintage wood tables and a cosy fireplace in the corner. There was a pleasant and warm ambience to the place. We were a group of about 15 people, so we had a pre-ordered set menu.
If you’ve heard of the Harwood arms, you’ve probably also heard about their Venison Scotch eggs. I ordered them for my starter, and they lived up to the eggy hype. Beautifully crunchy outside (japanese panko breadcrumbs) with a thin layer of venison meat inside and a perfectly soft-boiled egg inside. The venison meat was well seasoned and it all comes together as a whole, as a damn good scotch egg, very well executed. I challenge you to find me a better scotch egg in the land!
Then came along an unexpected amuse bouche, which was Pumpkin and Sage Soup in a glass. This was outstanding, the soup was incredibly silky with a lovely taste of roasted pumpkin with a hum of sage running through it.
The mains were the only slight let down. I ordered the beef cheeks and Herefordshire snails braised in ale, with champ. Firstly, it looked a bit sloppy. I’m all for rustic presentation, but this didn’t look very inviting. The beef cheeks was perfectly braised and tender, but the snails were definitely over-cooked and slightly rubbery. The dish as a whole just didn’t have that punch of flavour the starter and the soup had. It was under-seasoned, which isn’t a huge crime because of course we can make it to our own taste at the table. This was a reasonably good, unpretentious gastro-pub dish, but no more than that. A lot of restaurants have hit and miss dishes over a service, and maybe this was just one of them, and it certainly didn’t stop me from warming to the place. But then again, this is why I think that Michelin stars can be a curse to a restaurant, because customers immediately have a higher expectation of the place. Of course, Michelin stars are good financially for a place (bookings, PR etc.), but I’ve heard many a chef who has gained a star, say it changes a restaurant, and not necessarily for the better. Less soul to the place, more corporate customers. But anyways, I got a little side tracked there. On to dessert.
For dessert I had the Cheeseboard with British Cheeses (of course) oat biscuits, Eccles cakes and quince jelly. This was excellent. Well sourced cheeses from Britain. The Eccles cakes had an unusual amount of currants in them which made them like mince pies. But this was a good thing, they tasted better than any mince pie I’ve ever had. They were so good in fact, I asked for a Michelin starred doggy bag for the leftovers. I even suggested to the waitress that they should definitely offer these as mince pies for christmas, she agreed enthusiastically with me, which was good acting on her part, but I did appreciate it. Which brings me to the service, which was very friendly, attentive and our waitress was very knowledgable about all the wine and dishes.
The big group bill came to £50 per head with about a bottle of half of wine each, which I thought was really good value for the amount of food we received and for the service we had.
Unpretentious British Pub, which serves (mostly) very tasty, well executed original dishes. I found it to be very good value. If you can’t book a table, just stroll in and find a table and order a scotch egg and a few other bar snacks. They also do a pub quiz on Tuesday night’s which is meant to be a laugh. The residents of Fulham are very lucky to have this as a local. Highly recommended – But it will be interesting to see now that the Head Chef who got this place on the map has left, if the food will stay original with punchy flavour, or if it will go down hill.
The Harwood Arms
Walham Grove, Fulham SW6 1QP
Tel: 0207 386 1847
Nearest tube: Fulham Broadway
Meal for two including a bottle of wine and service: £100
#MEATEASY is the creation of Yianni Papoutsis. He had a famous Burger van that unfortunately got stolen a few months ago. Due to a combination of his regular customers demanding his food, and Yianni’s business acumen, he made a deal with the owners of a currently closed pub in New Cross, that while it is being refurbished, he could use the upstairs area to do whatever he’d like. This was the birth of #MEATEASY. The # symbol before the name signifies how Yianni spread the word through social media sites especially twitter.
Being a person who is always pursuing the search for the perfect burger and steak, I decided to see what Yianni had to offer. I had no idea where New Cross was, but it was surprisingly only half an hour on a train, and I live in South West London. With less than a 5 minute walk from New Cross Gate rail station, you find the Goldsmiths tavern. The door on the left of this, is the entrance to #MEATEASY. You walk through a couple of doors and then go upstairs. Once I entered, at about 6pm, it wasn’t too busy yet, so we had a pick of tables to sit at. The walls are covered with pages of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and there is a speaker tanoy system for calling out the numbers of raffle tickets. You receive said raffle ticket when you enter, and when your number is called, you go up to the till and place your order. You cannot reserve any tables and it is first come first serve.
The food had arrived, and I had ordered the Cheeseburger (£6), Onion rings (£3) and the Chilli Cheese Fries (£5). The cheeseburger was awesome. From the first bite, it was big, very juicy, pink and in a very nice sourdough bun that I think must have been slightly steamed (This is usually done by splashing a touch of water on the bun while it’s on the grill and then covering with a bowl) This created a lovely gloss and soft texture to it. I made my obligatory burger sauce of half french’s mustard and half ketchup to make it even more to my liking. The onion rings were the crispest pieces of batter I have ever crunched into, I was very impressed. The chilli cheese fries were also very flavoursome, the fries were covered in chilli con carne with a touch of french’s mustard on the top. I really enjoyed all of it, but the Cheeseburger was the star of the show. As soon as I finished it, I had a craving to have another one, but I thought I would try to have some restraint.
Myself and “the Date” had a few drinks from the bar, which is manned by some hot shot cocktail makers from Soul Shakers. One of them was wearing just an apron and a wrestling mask, which was quite strange but it put a smile on everyone’s face. They have a slush puppy machine which had margarita mix on the night we were there, which is topped up with a touch of lager at the end to make the drink a “Lagerita”. I don’t think this added anything to the drink taste-wise, but is was a very good Margarita nonetheless. All the cocktails are served in jam jars which i think is a quirky nice touch, and also keeps costs down of course! There was also a really good mix of music all night , from grunge to funky house, which kept everyone upbeat. The staff were extremely friendly and looked like they really enjoyed working at this microcosm of fun. The place got really busy by 7:30pm but this just added to the atmosphere. The place has so many quirky aspects to it, I think you either embrace it and enjoy yourself, or moan that it’s trying to be too East London/Shoreditch-esque wannabe cool. But I am firmly in the first camp. I hadn’t been in such a buzzing place for a while, and I had a whale of a time all night. The place just made me smile. I went on a Saturday, but I was told by a waitress that friday nights are usually the music nights where they get a dj and go onto the early hours. If you don’t want to wait long for your food, I would recommend going at about 6pm, but personally I think it would be absolutely fine to go at anytime in the evening, because you can always soak up the atmosphere and have a few tasty cocktails while you wait.
Verdict: Some of the best burgers in the UK (very reasonably priced – £6 for the cheeseburger), good music, buzzy atmosphere and a fun and quirky setting. Come here if you want a great evening out with friends. It is a bit of a trek, but not as bad as you think, and well worth the pilgrimage. I cannot wait to go back. Be quick though,#MEATEASY is closing for good on April 16th. So I urge you to go, embrace the raw atmosphere and fun of this temporary venue while you can. And Yianni, please can I have the burger recipe?
Above Goldsmiths Tavern
316 New Cross Road
Nearest tube/train: New Cross Gate rail & New Cross tube
Meal for 2 including a couple of beers and a cocktail: £40
Open Tuesday to Saturday, 6pm – 11pm for food, later for drinks. CASH ONLY.
I visited the Penny Black last night on the Fulham road in Chelsea, which has only recently opened a couple of weeks ago. It’s selling itself as a “wholly British-focused high end London restaurant” and “a home away from home”. They also have the soon to be everywhere enomatic wine machine that enables you to purchase top end wines by the glass and half-bottle carafes without having to commit to a whole bottle.
Myself and “the Date” entered the restaurant, and our first impressions of the place were rather under-whelming. As you walk in, on the left hand side there is a seating area, which reminds of me of the areas in chinese and indian restaurants where you wait for your takeaway.The general decor is cheaply done with bright lights around the room. It could easily be mistaken for an upmarket indian restaurant, we would have just needed to be served some poppadoms.
The Head chef is Jan Chanter who had previously worked at The Atlantic Bar & Grill and Monte’s. First impressions aside, I was looking forward to tasting some well-executed, high-end comfort food. The menu has some classic British dishes, such as Beef Wellington, shepherd’s pie, braised oxtail and beef stew. It was interesting to note that apart from the Beef Wellington, there was not another steak dish, or even any chicken on the menu, not a big issue, but it’s just something that came to mind.
“The Date” had rock oysters from an unknown provenance, which were plump, fresh and tasted of the sea. The shallot vinegar was made with white wine vinegar instead of red which I thought was a bit unusual, and also no tabasco came with the dish. But apart from that, they were very pleasant. I had the Corned Beef Hash with a fried duck egg and pickled onions. It looked and smelled very tempting. The corned beef hash flavours worked well with the sharp vinegary onions and rich yolk.
For the main course, we both ordered the Oxtail and shin of beef stew with herb dumplings (£19), which was on the of the cheaper main courses. I was quite surprised by the prices of the main courses. About half of them were reaching the £30 mark, which is near River Cafe prices. It made me think if some of the mains were meant for two people, but the waitress confirmed that they were all individual dishes.
The Oxtail and Beef shin stew arrived. I really wanted to like it, and from my experience , it’s pretty hard not to make a very tasty braised oxtail dish. But this just did not hit the mark at all. There was no sign of any meat in the dish, even if it had broken up into little pieces. The oxtail was not as tender as it should have been, having to cut it off the bone, instead of it nearly falling off. The dumplings were the size of little pebbles and the sauce had more of a bisto taste and consistency, rather than a hearty, meaty one.The overall taste just wasn’t flavoursome enough to class it anything apart from average. And for the price of £19, I thought was very poor. We did have a very nice £30 bottle of Merlot which the sommelier recommended, which helped us wash down the disappointment of the main course.
For dessert, we had a good selection of cheeses from Neal’s Yard, which were served with some tasty oat cakes and quince jelly.
There were lots of waiters and waitresses around the room, too many, but this is just a case of ensuring everything goes smoothly in the first couple of months, but the owner should really start to rein back on this if he wants the restaurant to still be there in a year. The service throughout was very friendly, efficient and attentive.
The atmosphere in the room was verging on dull and it was a full restaurant. There just didn’t seem to be any buzz, sense of enjoyment or excitement in the room, and this was on a friday night. We got the bill, which came to £124, so just over £60 per person. Which I thought was way over-priced for the quality of the food we received. I think one of the big problem’s with a place like this is, they have an idea but it isn’t extremely clear. They want to serve comfort food, fine. But just because it’s in an affluent area like Chelsea, do they think it deserves the price tag of nearly £30 for a main? Also the restaurant decor including the loos just do not match or merit the prices on the menu and wine list.
I really don’t know who is going to eat here more than once. I do not see the 18-30’s coming here for a fun, buzzy dinner. And I think the 30+ demographic will rather go to a classier italian or japanese restaurant instead of this, for the same prices.
Over-priced average British food, served in a narrow, cheaply decorated room with little atmosphere
The Penny Black
212 Fulham Road, Chelsea, SW10 9PJ
Tel: 0845 838 8998
Nearest tube: South Kensington
Meal for two including a bottle of wine and service: £124