Starters of ravioli, trout and porridge
T IS EASY to warm to TV chef Jun Tanaka’s first solo restaurant, The Ninth. With exposed brickwork, vintage copperware, antique mirrors and dark wooden floors, the Charlotte Street premises are a cosy antidote to a winter’s night.
Tanaka brings considerable experience to the venture — the ninth restaurant in which he has been involved, having cooked under the tutelage of Michel Roux Jnr and Marco Pierre White and, most recently, been executive chef at the Pearl in Holborn, where he gained three AA rosettes. His experience shows in his menu, where the snacks and starting options are perfect for those who like to share, tapas-style. The must-try is a Monaco speciality of Swiss chard, pine nuts and feta-filled ravioli, while other possibilities include mackerel with dill, cucumber and capers and grilled pitta with oregano and sea salt.
We were equally taken by the choice of main-course accompaniments, from the seasonally satisfying honey roast winter vegetables to pan-fried herb gnocchi. The latter worked nicely with my soft and flavoursome whole roast sea bream, served with aubergine caviar. I’m struggling to recall enjoying a fish entrée more and, happily full, would normally have passed on the dessert.
But the staff, who are genuine fans of the restaurant’s fare, thankfully persuaded us otherwise. Though I did beg a taste of my partner’s carmelised lemon tart, I had to end with the ultimate in comfort food — (French toast) with melting vanilla ice cream. The interesting selection of European cheeses will have to wait until next time.
Also new and worth sampling is Piquet, a welcome dining addition to the Tottenham Court Road end of Oxford Street. Piquet is a rather elegant Frenchification of the surname of chef patron Allan Pickett — and a Pot-roast sea bass
is a winner at Piquet clue to his culinary style. After a pre-prandial glass f rom an excellent wine list at the streetlevel bar area. we were shown to our shown to our table in the downstairs restaurant, where convivial dining parties were making more serious inroads into the vino.
The menu options work for all price points. On the day of our visit, Piquet’s set-price menu (two courses for £16.50; three for £19.50) offered dishes such as marinated tuna, potroast hake and iced mint sherbet with chocolate sponge.
The menu du jour is not available after 6.45pm but nocturnal diners can order the chef’s market menu — “five courses of today’s best produce” for £45 (£75 with wine pairings) — and the restaurant can make substitutions where dishes do not meet personal taste or religious observance.
We went à la carte, not least to sample the smoked salmon with buckwheat blini and herbed crème fraîche and a main-course fish choice of potroast sea bass or seared sea trout. The anchovy dip with breadsticks served before the meal deserves honorary mention.
Asked to identify food trends for 2016, Pickett predicts a “firm comeback” for the bakewell tart. And the dessert menu suggests that here is a man serious about his puddings. Unable to choose, we took the indulgent way out by ordering the assiette gourmande, a selection of six small portions shared unwillingly between two.
For anothe r winter w a r me r, try some Japanese comfort food at Shackfuyu, sister of the hugely popular Bone Daddies, which has gone from a pop-up to a permanent Soho diner. Among the dishes is “aubergine 4 miso”, an aubergine cooked to melt-in-themouth state and presented in a rich, sweet, sticky sauce. Tenderstem broccoli with wafu dressing and edamame with sweet chilli soy are also on the Shackfuyu menu.
City high-fliers can now start their day at a new porridge bar in Darwin Brasserie, 36 floors up at the Sky Garden in Fenchurch Street.
The bar offers organic porridge made with a choice of water, cow’s milk, soya milk, rice milk or almond milk. Combinations include blueberry, banana & Manuka honey, pear and cinnamon compôte and apple and brazil nut.
Another room with a view — and one of the best in the capital from a 28th floor vantage point — is GalvinatWindowsatthe Park Lane Hilton. Its annual Great Galvin Giveaway this year runs on weekday lunchtimes until the end of February and covers a three-course meal, plus a glass of Bellini, for £30. The lunch, which has to be pre-booked, features fish and vegetar
ian choices. Allan Pickett: ‘bakewell tart due for comeback’