Kate Moss once combined stupidity with outrage by saying “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” inviting a PR pounding for advocating anorexia. If only she’d eaten at Medlar.
Medlar lies deep along the impoverished and downright dangerous Kings Road in Chelsea, West London. A joint venture between Head Chef Joe Mercer Nairne formerly of The Savoy Grill and Chez Bruce, and front of house David O’Connor who previously held the same position at Chez Bruce, The Square and The Ledbury.
The surroundings are calm and the service ego-free. The prices breathe the life back into you: on a weekday a three course lunch is a moderate £26 and dinner is £39.50. By the time the food comes around you won’t believe they expect so little for it, for the cooking is phenomenal.
Crab raviolo with samphire, brown shrimps, fondue of leeks and bisque sauce
Most memorable are the starters, that appear to be where the chef has devoted most of his attention to formulating food that pulls your head in close to kiss you like it loves you. In a seductive pool of creamy sauce that embodied all things shellfish, was a humungous raviolo encasing a generous, fresh crabmeat filling in an egg-yolk coloured sheet of thin pasta. On top is the mild crunch of samphire, the momentary resistance of tiny brown shrimps, the squish of diced tomato cubes which generate a gradient of texture that ends in the effortless raviolo.
Duck egg tart with red wine sauce, turnip purée , lardons and sautéed duck heart
A starter of duck egg tart was refined and designed to stimulate all manner of joy. The way a deeply coloured, veal-based red wine sauce glazes over the sautéed duck hearts and lardons alongside three trench-coat coloured blobs of turnip purée is compelling. They surround a perfectly circular fried duck egg with a bulging yolk, that neatly rests on a puff pastry disc of matching circumference. It’s so pretty you wish you could burn it into your retina. Every nuance is so deliberate without being overworked, to a point where it borders on expressive. This is cooking as an art form and it tastes every bit as good as it looks.
Roast grouse with game chips, bread sauce, pâté and damsons (+£5.00 supplement)
London has pushed grouse hard this year since it came into season. You’ll currently find it occupying a slot on the menu of most allegedly good restaurants. I’ve been doing the rounds and found the Medlar version to be second only to Hedone – where you can rest assured you are getting only the best of any ingredient going. The outer flesh is shiny and smooth like the creature’s head in the Ridley Scott movie Alien.
There’s a muscularity that softens the deeper you cut. A damson purée tastes somewhere between a jam and beetroot and counters the inherent gameyness of the meat. There are perfectly good game chips, and a lovely bread sauce accompanying. But best of all is a cool and rich pâté of grouse liver and heart on a crouton that has soaked up the lovely jus on which it rests.
Blackberry mille-feuille with lemon curd
For desserts there are things like plum beignets with ginger ice cream and custard; almond panna cotta with PX, poached pear and ricciarelli; and honeycomb ice cream with chocolate tuile. I have the mille-feuille: a double-decker pastry sandwich with a bottom-deck of zingy blackberries and an upper-deck of cream. With it is lemon curd that is more cream than curd with strands of lemon sprouting from it, amongst blobs of blackberry purée. An accomplished dessert but missing the excitement of what went before.
Somewhere during the meal it became clear that Medlar is a restaurant to be taken seriously: for its discerning cooking where flavours are bold and outspoken; combinations clever and articulate; the presentation elegant yet masculine and at times picturesque.
This is food worth getting fat for and the affordable pricing may just allow for that over time, as this is a place you’ll want to come back to time and time again. When the bill comes you’ll think they must have missed something, then you’ll check it and see there’s no mistake. Then you’ll smile. Medlar is a place that will renew your faith in the restaurant industry and put the spring back in your step.
food : 9/10
service : 9/10
ambience : 6.5/10
value : 10/10
438 Kings Road, Chelsea, London SW10 0LJ
020 7349 1900