I’ve been trying to get together with my friend Filippo (editor of http://www.theupcoming.co.uk/) and his girlfriend Laura for ages. I actually haven’t seen them in a year which is crazy considering we live in the same city (I guess we were supposed to cover 50 Best in NYC together but he had to cancel his trip at last minute). As proper food-obsessed people, he had an unlikely plan A, a plan B and a plan C and he didn’t tell me until the day of the dinner. Sadly plan A, which was Anglo, didn’t work out (9pm was too late for me) and our options were Sosharu and Noble Rot. We ended up picking Noble Rot to try to support an independent venue and local business……(I let Filippo pick…).
The setting is wine bar-meets-pub and it’s fine but not really special. We started off with delicious non-vintage bubbles from Jacques Lassaigne Filippo picked called Montgueux.
What we ate:
Bread: The highlight of the dinner! An amazing focaccia made in house, tasty sourdough bread from Hedone, and soda bread (less striking) served with nicely salty butter. We devoured it and ended up ordering a second portion.
Oysters: We started with some Maldon Rock oysters which were ok but nothing special. But maybe we are both spoiled brats as I recently had the most amazing oysters in Nantucket and he had been in Bretagne this summer.
Gazpacho, Lincolnshire Smoked Eel & Lovage: this was by far the best dish of the evening. The gazpacho was light and delicate (not nearly as good as the one at Bocam in Figueres) and the smoked eel on top added a unique taste that made it original and interesting.
Soused Mackerel, Kohlrabi & Crème Fraîche: I am not a mackerel fan but it was actually with Filippo at the Clove Club last year that I had the first one I liked . This one was limp and I didn’t love the look of it and I found it bland.
Slip Sole & Smoked Butter: I had read some reviews that raved about this dish and since I couldn’t find much on the mains menu that got me excited, I decided to order it as my main. The advantage was that Laura got it first as her starter so I could try, and then if I didn’t like it, I could change my main….I did like it, the smoked butter was nice and despite how bony the fish was, the flesh separated easily. But despite liking it, Filippo convinced me to change it for the ray and he swapped his main for the lamb’s tongue in the starters menu.
Whole Roast Partridge, Celeriac & Girolles: Laura liked it but I am not a huge partridge fan as I find it challenging to eat. I tried a nibble and it was well prepared and not dry. I was excited about the celeriac puree as it’s one of my favourite ingredients but it was bland and sadly the ratio of mushrooms to partridge was very low.
Seared Thornback Ray ‘Veronique’: the ray was perfectly cooked and it was a very generous portion. Sadly the excess of heavy cream overwhelmed the ray and didn’t let the laky ray shine.
Lamb’s Tongue with Salsa Verde and Arugula: none of us had tried lamb’s tongue before and couldn’t resist. The tongue was well cooked but the salsa verde on top once again hid the flavours of the main ingredient. We also found it off how our waitress suggested a £30 glass of red with the dish, which Filippo said wasn’t even a right pairing, and then the wine he chose took ages to arrive…….wasn’t the wine supposed to be the focus of the restaurant?
Warm Chocolate Mousse: they used very good quality chocolate but it was more like a half-cooked soufflé, served with some cream in the middle. To me it was almost too airy but Filippo liked it (he admittedly likes anything with good chocolate in it).
Blackberry & Almond Tart: we needed a second dessert and since the figs with chamomile ice cream didn’t sound too exciting, we ordered the tart. The pastry was flaky and it could have used a bit more filling – once again not a winner.
In sum: to me the place lacks identity, it was a mix of pub and bistro with a clientele we couldn’t really figure out- working crowd from the area who vacations in France and is trying to get a taste of it? The wine bar upfront, where they serve some smaller nibbles, seems like a better choice.
51 Lamb’s Conduit St, London WC1N 3NB