|Last Orders||10.30 pm|
"Very creative Icelandic cuisine in a grand high-ceiling room. Worked equally well for a business lunch and a dinner with close friends."
An ambitious newcomer, just north of Oxford Street, where the personal touch of the co-owners - an ex-Manoir head chef and sommelier - is much in evidence; while we were charmed by the service (and wines), we were not convinced that the strikingly-plated dishes lived up to their high prices.
Texture is an under-appreciated part of the dining experience - that's the culinary credo of this airy new spot, just north of Oxford Street. It sounds as if it might be a bit pretentious, but with Agnar Sverisson - formerly head chef of Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons - in charge of the kitchen, this is clearly an endeavour that demands to be taken seriously.
This is not, however, a place that's serious in the grave sense of the word. In fact, the mainly French staff are all very charming, and they do not take themselves at all au sérieux. Manager Xavier Rousset also comes with Manoir heritage: he was formerly head sommelier there, and an apparently genuine delight in wine seems to run through the entire operation.
The setting - in an elegant Adam-style room - is pleasant too. Airy and understated, the 'feel' of the place is quite unusual. Such lofty chambers, however, are difficult to organise as restaurants in a way which feels quite natural for contemporary tastes, and we're not entirely sure they've pulled it off here. When you book, we'd suggest you try for a banquette.
But back to the food. Sverisson has not only worked at the Manoir - where the style is essentially classical - but also, albeit briefly, at the very highly-regarded El Celler de San Roca, in Spain. The presentation at Texture makes it clear that Sverisson's heart is in the school-of-El-Bulli style he saw there. His cooking is of the variety where each plate is a work of art. Where pre-conceptions are challenged. And where the expectations engendered by the arrival of each plate are high.
And we certainly enjoyed pretty much everything we ate, but the thing that really sticks in our mind...? Was unfortunately the cheese course. That piece of mature Gouda really was exceptional. That seems unkind, almost gratuitously unkind to a chef who's clearly putting a lot of love and care in, but our recollection of the other dishes - and we must have sampled eight or nine - is frankly rather tenuous. Oh yes, that boiled egg with crispy bacon was fun, but at no point did we really pause for a moment of pure culinary pleasure. Perhaps we were unlucky, but our lunch for two cost £180, and we couldn't honestly say we thought it was worth it.
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