Hidden-away in Bayswater, John Burton-Race’s new restaurant offers quite a traditional formula which, our early-days visit suggests, is done well enough to be worth seeking out.
There were a number of reasons we expected not to like this Bayswater newcomer. Most obviously, it is the creature of a ‘TV chef’ (John Burton-Race). It also takes its name from the same owner’s former seaside (Dartmouth) venture which closed a few years ago – in waves of acrimony – after a period of seriously dodgy performance.
The new venture, however, gives an impression of harmony and comfort’ albeit in a style which initially seemed just a teeny bit provincial. This may, however, say less about the provinces than it does about the capital, so de rigueur does some variation of Shoreditch style seem to have become for pretty much any new restaurant with fashionable aspirations.
As much as the the sole lunchtime customer can judge – we have to exclude from the reckoning a table composed entirely of the restaurant’s PRs – this may be a bourgeois establishment, but it is not a stuffy one, or one where the staff are unduly solemn or pleased with themselves. In fact, very much the contrary.
They do, however, insist on that Michelin-pleasing may-I-introduce-your-starter nonsense. This does raise the stakes for the kitchen: not much point in a fanfare and a drum roll if what follows is only good enough.
Fortunately, however, the food here is consistently very good. We say this with some confidence, as both starter and pudding came ‘en trio’, so the number of different items comprised even in a single lunch was considerable.
Bread came in unfashionable variety – four choices, to be precise, and pretty good, to the extent we wondered if they were made on the premises. No, it seems, but over the opening weeks they are trying out the various commercial bakeries to see which does the best job.
Everything here comes prettily presented, and the salmon trio to start was no exception. It suggested that, as you’d hope with Burton-Race’s experience, this is a kitchen that can do the canon of Escoffier – mousses, for example – very well. The starter was, however, probably the weakest element of a lunch which got better as it went on. Monkfish with samphire was a delight, but the real highlight was the raspberry trio – this is a kitchen which can do a mean macaron. Very decent coffee too, which came with generous – and very good – chocolates. (Not just one, as at our recent meal chez Marcus!)
Round here, though, weekday lunchtime opening does look as if it’s going to be a stretch. Let’s hope they find enough dinner business to keep this commendable show happily on the road. Or perhaps they just need to bide their time and make their name first: the number of people who come in looking for the celebrated Italian restaurant Assaggi, which has long occupied the first-floor dining room of these one-time pub premises, must be rather irritating for them.