The menu was a little different to the online version that I had read and memorised with military precision, so ordering turned out not to be as streamlined and flippant as I had envisaged. After painful deliberation, I opted for the half pint of prawns, drawn in by the promise of aioli,which seems to be frequenting every menu ever right now. My partner in crime went for the minted pea soup.
Upon ordering, the table was laid with thick cloth napkins, heavy carved knives and a wooden box of rolls- half white and floury, half small, round and stuffed with olives- and was, before the food had even arrived, looking good enough to eat.
The prawns arrive, looking simple and appealing piled into a pint glass. No 80's style cocktail glass throwbacks to be found here. Relief. The aoli doesn't disappoint, especially alongside the scone-like olive bread. Having a little taster of the soup I have fleeting food envy- the mint to pea balance is just right and tastes fresh and light.
When it comes to menus, there are always certain ingredients that I gravitate towards. If there is scallops as a starter for example, then it is inevitable that I will find myself with scallops. When it comes to mains, I'm always drawn to seafood, so when I saw the fish stew I was very tempted. But, just like I wouldn't order a steak in Loch Fyne, I had to order tactically and it seemed a waste to not order meat in a restaurant with its own butcher on site.
So we ordered the 7oz rump steak (for the lady) a 10oz rib eye steak, green peppercorn sauce and two sides of spinach and puy lentils.
We both ordered the steaks medium rare. I don't approve of a steak that is one colour the whole way through- especially if that colour is brown. I like a bit of pink. Its worth noting that they are cooked medium rare 'English style'- browned, with a thick pink hue and a bit of juice- as opposed to medium rare European style. This is fact rather than complaint, as we were after all, in an English butcher's... But remember this if you like your meat to moo.
The meat was served simply with a grilled tomato and two flat mushrooms and the chips came separately in a little brown garden pot. Being an very synesthetic person, I got a distinct feel of the seaside from the thick cut and crispy chips, but without any of the greasiness, guilt and self loathing that is so often part of the seaside experience. I was delighted with the small, well presented portion but my male companion, though approving of the chunky British cut, was less than impressed by the meagre quantity that could be stuffed into a Bill and Ben sized pot.
And the extras? The sauce came in a jug and if I am going to be pinikity,could have done with a little more green peppercorn But could all too easily be forgiven by the richness of flavour it still imparted.
The spinach was- spinach really.
The lentils however stole the (side) show. As someone who almost always cooks lentils African style with plenty of cumin and sweet spices, I found the fresh spring flavours of lentils cooked instead with carrot and garlic to feel light and healthy and quite delicate for what is generally a fairly inelegant pulse.
By the time our plates were cleared away, I was feeling full without being stuffed or feeling weighed down. I find that as a self confessed glut, it is a rare thing to find that elusive but ever-so satisfying fine balance between feeling slightly unsatisfied and the awful and all too common restaurant experience- stuffed like fois gras and sick with regret.
I found myself feeling full, but comfortable. Usually at this point in the meal I face the pudding menu with all the fierce conviction of a martyr, fully prepared to suffer for my art. On this occasion, I could have left without a dessert (could have, but wouldn't have) but felt comfortable enough to study the menu without it being overshadowed by a sense of impending doom.
Again, with puddings I have my classic choices, for classic menus. I cannot say no to a cheesecake. The menu had all the usual suspects; tarte tatin, cheesecake (my two old friends) and chocolate brownie- although the white chocolate and orange cheesecake did at least make an effort to inject some variety into the well versed formula.
I resist my natural urges and decided to try something new (it is, after all, my first review) and so I resolutely went for the peach and champagne sorbet that had caught my eye online earlier (alongside the almond or honeycomb ice-cream and elderflower and limencello sorbet).
A cheeseboard is the kind of course that can present quite a hurdle for a restaurant- either excelling in an abundance of cheeses in a variety of textures or failing dismally; too many water biscuits in ratio to a few paltry slices of cheddar. So I was intrigued to see theirs, and pleased when it was ordered.
Despite a fleeting pang of cheesecake related regret, I was soothed by the light, peachy sorbet. Though somewhat lacking in presentation (especially in comparison to previous courses. It had so much potential.) it was perfect to slowly lick away at whilst the meal drew to an unhurried close. The texture was sticky and bubbly, the syrup it melted into, sweet and fruity.
The cheeseboard by comparison, was everything I had hoped for my sorbet and more. On a long slab of slate, the portion was generous, with elegantly sliced apple, locally sourced oat biscuits from the deli and a lovely, tangy chutney that beautifully compliment the good variety of cheese, including brie and wax coated cheddar (though there was a distinct lack of blue vein.)
I love the open plan deli/butchers at the front and large spacious restaurant above. From the white/blue theme and views of the river to the huge cattle prints and wooden carved knives, the decor really worked to create an elegant but laid back and ultimately relaxing atmosphere.
The food was beautifully presented and consistently good- made more enjoyable knowing ingredients had been sourced from the meat counter on site. I would particularly recommend the cheeseboard- and try get a table by the large windows. If you eat early, the light is lovely. A good British eatery for dinner out with family or friends.
I left feeling well fed and satisfied- without any heaviness or regret. A rare and happy phenomenon!
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