I first heard of the restaurant at Bonhams from a work colleague when it was still only a Thursday night supperclub. I was never organised enough to book a table though. The restaurant increased it’s service to lunch times and then included 2 dinner services each week, such was it’s popularity. Then one of my favourite bloggers Kang of LondonEater started eating at the restaurant regularly, wrote about his experiences and posted many a photo on Instagram and with each post I wanted to eat there more and more. The Better Half (TBH) and I celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary last week and with it being a Friday and one of the evenings the restaurant is open for dinner, this was the perfect opportunity.
Located within Bonhams Auction House (one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious auction houses). The restaurant is small and perfectly formed, only serving 22 covers and never turning tables. We felt truly special and like we were a part of London’s best kept secret! Headed by Chef Tom Kemble, there is a strong focus on seasonality and creating dishes of only a couple of ingredients so that each of them shines. We decided on the 7 course tasting menu and had to call 48 hours before to notify the restaurant. The menu isn’t online, much to my dismay. The control freak in my likes to know what’s coming! But it just solidifies Chef Tom’s ethos of cooking what is available and in season.
Our first course was Steamed Abalone, wasabi, shisho and ginger. Neither of us had tried abalone before and didn’t really know what to expect. It’s a mollusc and had quite a meaty texture. Served in it’s shell on ice, it was a beauty to look at and to eat. I enjoyed the Asian flavours, but felt there could’ve been more of a punch from the wasabi.
We should’ve had the Crab Chawanmushi next, but when we were asked our thoughts on the menu, TBH remarked that there were a lot of fish courses and he isn’t madly keen on fish – but that he was happy to try anything. Without any fuss at all the chef changed this dish to Steak tartare with mustard dressing and potato crisp. Now that’s what you call service! We were so impressed and really quite touched by this gesture. It wasn’t like a classic tartare that I’ve tasted before, but I loved the mustard dressing and the potato crisp added a great texture. Well balanced and a really enjoyable substitute dish.
Luberon Asparagus, black truffle coulis and confit lemon – you can’t really get any more seasonal than this dish. Swishing the asparagus through the black truffle coulis was a sensational combination of flavours. Sweet, sour, fresh, woody. Just divine.
Slow cooked cod, seaweed matcha butter, agretti and mussel sauce was next. Sweet and succulent morsels of a fish that doesn’t normally have a lot of flavour, but add the intense mussel sauce and the dish is elevated to another level. This chef certainly has a way with sauces!
Our next course was an additional course at a £12 supplement. Caramelised veal sweetbread wild garlic, baby gem and morel vin jaune sauce. We decided to throw caution to the wind and go for it as neither of us had tried sweetbreads before. The idea of it is definitely not the reality and I will go as far as to say that this was my favourite course! TBH is usually far more adventurous at trying new things than I am, but I am so glad I braved it.
Roast Challans duck, chared endive, komatsuna, Tokyo turnips and a crispy duck salad was the main course. Beautifully cooked duck and I loved the slightly bitter and smoky chared endive. There was aniseed of some sort in the crispy duck salad, so I didn’t enjoy that too much but I don’t think the dish needed it anyway. The duck did all the talking!
Ginger and Lime sorbet coconut and passionfruit was a great palate cleaner and I especially enjoyed the coconut foam, which was absolutely packed full of flavour.
Lastly we had the Bonhams chocolate bar, griotte cherry sorbet and balsamic caramel. Chocolate and cherry is a combination that both TBH and I love and he declared this his second favourite dessert of all time! 🙂
Bonhams is an auction house after all that specialise, amongst other things, in fine (and very expensive) wines. So it was a little nerve-wracking asking for a recommendation. But Charlotte is one of the rare sommeliers that actually listened to what we liked and recommended a wonderful 2014 Malbec (Colomé) that was utterly delicious, smooth and almost chocolatey in taste, but that didn’t break the bank balance either. Result.
Being such a small restaurant, we were worried that it would lack atmosphere. But the staff on duty that evening, Sandy our waitress and Charlotte, were friendly and engaging and put us at ease immediately. The small touches are what makes this restaurant stand out from all the others in this market and of course meeting Tom and receiving a signed congratulatory menu at the end of our evening was the perfect ending.
Until we eat again!