The start of something (utterly) exciting..
Where do I begin? The word “supper club” has been a distant memory, and being subjected to a communal table in the middle of an unpopulated dining room daunted me. The glimmering kitchen was my hope. So was the name Leandro Carreira, a chef who held senior positions at two of the world’s most inspiring kitchens Mugaritz and Viajante.
Leandro or Leo is at One Leicester Street for 3 months (until mid-June, I guess), doing what seems an understatement, a “supper club”. This is an 8-course menu with beverage pairings (by Talented Mr Fox) at £88. Chefs are keen to exchange thoughts and diners are encouraged to nose around in the kitchen. The cuisine is innovative – an epiphany both of taste and of thought process.
A bit of Dabbous..
It is a truth universally acknowledged by food critics that Dabbous is a restaurant worthy of month-long reservation attempts. For me, I have found tastier solace at its downstairs bar. You’ll find bar nibble quickies (BBQ beef buns, etc.), some Dabbous signature dishes, awesome desserts and funky cocktails. And, in my opinion, Barnyard – a walk-in only restaurant by Ollie Dabbous – is precisely that.
There were rumours that a certain Michelin star chef has quietly moved in at an existing restaurant address around Carnaby Street. He shunned the aids of PR. I was also further teased, “you had his food before and you liked it”. That’s about it. My two clues: the “Carnaby” location and that the chef is a “he”.
My brain labour started, no doubt. Social media network didn’t help much. The “no PR” works most effectively to obscure, when a lot of restaurants these days (especially in Central London) rely on PR bombs. Luckily, I was able to single out a couple of possible sites that had recently been refurbished. My foot work followed. I looked through the menus of my narrowed-down restaurant list.
The Lockhart isn’t a new restaurant but one that nobody talked about. It wasn’t until its recent acquisition of chef Bradford McDonald that The Lockhart got my attention. The fare here is Southern American with backflippingly cool and refined twists.
Before that. Bradford. He is American and Southern. He grew up in a farm and mobilised across the world’s best kitchens (including Per Se and Noma). His former restaurant Governor in Brooklyn, NY was lauded by chefs, critics and food enthusiasts. Sadly, it was swept away by Sandy. A year or so after, I feel privileged to have Brad cooking in London.
Fish and a bit of Japanese..
Yashin Ocean House is a new venture by the team behind Yashin Sushi (in High Street Kensington). This is a designed-to-be-trendy restaurant with brown leather banquettes, smashed-and-exposed brick walls, polychrome of tiled tables, an emerald green kitchen island and counter, and a statement glass-covered facility for dry-aging fish. Not trendy enough? The restaurant also puts up a black horse sculpture with a lamp shade on its head to delight customers’ eyes as they are walked to their tables. A bit Santa Monica. A bit Moscow. The setting, kind of, helped distract me from the fact that Yashin Ocean House isn’t really a Japanese restaurant but an inventive fish restaurant with few Japanese touches. No sushi (and still no soy sauce)..
Social and colonial stuff
For those with limited cultural and Commonwealth knowledge (like me), Gymkhana may be summed up as a posh colonial-style sport club where members come dine and drink. And walking in, the ambiance and the design – a well-lacquered floor, framed pre- and post-colonial equestrian memorabilia, hunting taxidermy, and so forth – did live up to the brief. Social, nearly informal. There was also an unmistaken vibe of masculine gentility as I was seated at the table by a pristinely uniformed staff (in a Nehru jacket?) who explained away, with great but simplified detail, the culinary crux of Indian cuisine that I am never familiar with. (Yes, by now, I hope you have spotted that the cuisine of South Asian origins is not my forte).