The first solo London operation from Jason Atherton, the man who made ‘Maze’ for Gordon Ramsay; the formula – innovative, without it any way being startling – is nicely pitched, and already attracting a strong Mayfair following.
The unassuming Jason Atherton is one of the most able chefs to have made his name as part of the Gordon Ramsay stable – Maze was for many years one of the few undoubted stars in a constellation too often sustained by hype, and by Michelin. (Where one stopped, and the other began, we wouldn’t like to say.)
Leaving aside a ‘name’ restaurant launched last year in Shanghai (obviously), this is the first restaurant Atherton has established on his own, (and, it appears, largely with his own money). So it was rather a surprise when early-days reviews on his new Mayfair premises were rather mixed. With one exception we’ll come to later, however, our experience – a few weeks after opening – was of consistent high standards.
Initial impressions of the space are comforting: quite no-nonsense, by local standards, handsome enough, but without any fancy finishes. The menu style turns out to be pretty much in keeping – this is not a restaurant where you get bombarded with amuses and inter-courses. Our test meal: a lunch for two, offering the opportunity to check out most of the three-options-a-course set lunch menu.
The bread, seemingly home-made, made a very good initial impression, and the starters impressed with their precise timing – asparagus, for example – and their clarity and freshness. Both first courses – particularly one presented on a black plate, and featuring chilled beetroot mousse, as well as mackerel and horseradish cream – were a picture.
The cod main course – a smallish piece, presented in a soup-type dish under a white froth (or, more technically, a peas and cockle emulsion) – appeared to the eye as simply a white swirl. Of the taste, however, the recipient made no complaint. The other main course, a lamb rump, presented relatively conventionally, was difficult to fault.
Given that this is a restaurant which boasts an – innovative – dessert bar, it was curious that it was only at the final stage that the meal showed any sign of faltering. Both of us were enticed by the prospect of the strawberry and tomato gazpacho. By common consent, however, the black olive sorbet that came with it only detracted from the whole.
By the time of coffee and – first freebie of the meal! – chocolates, however, the impressive form which otherwise characterised our visit was comfortably re-established.