Wednesday, 24 November 2010

The Glasshouse, Kew


The Glasshouse is what I think I'm supposed to call a "local" or "neighbourhood" restaurant, although exactly why this curious title is applied to some places and not others has never really been explained to me. Surely every restaurant is local to somewhere? If you lived in Mayfair you could call Le Gavroche your neighbourhood restaurant, in Chelsea it could be Royal Hospital Road. Why is Chez Bruce (Wandsworth) a local restaurant but not Rules (Covent Garden)? Lamberts (Balham) but not Polpo (Soho)? Anyway, last night I ventured out to Kew, which sounds remote enough to be a challenge but was actually only 20 minutes or so from Clapham Junction and in the end felt surprisingly... what's the word... oh yes, local.


It's a nice little room, bright and airy and evidently very popular. The staff were as numerous as they were pleasant, and despite a couple of issues with timing we couldn't really complain about service at all; the sommelier, in particular, had an infectious enthusiasm for Italian wines and helped choose a very nice Malbec to go with our mains. Before that, though, starters, and a very strange issue with the Glasshouse menu. Reading "Grilled mackerel and miso, oyster dressing, shiso leaf and crispy squid" I immediately thought of the brilliant mackerel dish at the Ledbury, and although I wasn't expecting anywhere near that standard of cooking all the ingredients, at least, were there and I thought it might be worth giving it a go. What arrived was this:


That's grilled mackerel (check) and shiso leaf (check), next to chopped squid (check) in what is best described as a spring roll with a quiff. And there the similarities to the menu description ended. The mackerel was on a bed of creamed cabbage of some sort, and the whole dish was dressed with an incredibly sweet and powerfully orangey sauce, which while by no means unpleasant was still a million miles from what I had been led to expect. By far the dominant flavour was orange, which wasn't even in the description, and there was absolutely no sign of the oyster and miso elements at all. I can't remember the last time I'd noticed such a discrepancy between a menu description and the final dish, but the fish had a nice tasty flesh and the squid was moist and while I'd have liked a crispy skin on the mackerel I still enjoyed it. Odd, though.


Main course was far more predictable, and far more enjoyable. Lovely moist breast fillets of partridge, with a little lollipop of confit leg meat, was dressed with artichokes, crispy bacon bits and chestnuts. Best of all, instead of providing a more traditional side portion, the Glasshouse had somehow cleverly turned the bread sauce into several bite size pockets hidden around the dish, which burst in the mouth to reveal a bready paste inside. Great fun.


I had heard great things about the Glasshouse cheese selection, so instead of a sweet dessert we ordered two cheese courses. My one complaint was that many of the softer cheeses were served far too cold - particularly the Epoisses and the Stinking Bishop which you could cut like cake rather than, as is more normal, being forced to scoop out the flesh with a spoon and catch it briefly on a cracker before it dribbles onto the floor. When they were good though, some of these cheeses were bloody brilliant. There was a "Roquefort"-style blue, made with cow's milk instead of sheep's, which had a lovely balance of creaminess and salt, a number of fantastic goat's whose unpasteurised flesh tasted of farmyards and countryside, but towering over all these simply the most perfect slice of Comté I've ever had in my life. It was rich, powerfully nutty, salty and fresh, in perfect condition and at the perfect temperature, its flesh giving a deep complexity and gently firm bite. Amazing.


Despite the menu lottery, and some cold cheeses, you can see where your £45 goes at the Glasshouse. It's a comfortable and comforting place to spend an evening, the friendly staff and good food combining into a big soft embrace of a restaurant, and it does, at least, deserve both the Michelin star and the custom from happy locals - there's that word again - that has sustained it in this spot for over a decade. I can definitely see myself hopping on the tube here again, and although I'm not quite close enough (or, let's face it, wealthy enough) to call myself a Kew local, well, I can always pretend.

7/10

Glasshouse on Urbanspoon

15 comments:

Su-Lin said...

:D I just went there last Sunday! What brought you out to this neck of the woods?

Annie Mole said...

Good to know it's still good. It actually is my local, I walk past it every day, but haven't been in for a couple of years. Kew's not as remote as people might think - it's zone 3 on the District Line & the Glasshouse is super close to the Tube. Esther Ranzen used to be a regular when I went. I'll try and become more of a regular again!

tim_g said...

ill just go out on a limb here + say that covent garden + soho restaurants arent called neighbourhood ones because they're in the middle of the city...?

Chris said...

Su-Lin: A tip from a friend, who also lives round that way. Nice part of town!

tim_g: Why is the middle of the city not a neighbourhood?

Kavey said...

That starter sounds distinctly odd! When I visited, the menu was much more classic British and modern European and very good it was too.

I think I prefer sister restaurant La Trompette but it's a close call. And as I adore Kew Gardens, combining Glasshouse with a visit is a definite draw.

Greedy Diva said...

I've been a few times as it's the nicest restaurant with striking range from work - I always think the food is excellent but the atmosphere is a bit lacking.

Luke Mackay said...

I went to the Glass House about 6 years ago to impress a girlfriend- had deep fried and poached truffled egg with pigeon, all fancied up and it has stayed with me ever since- was a magical zeit-geisty dish. Was also my first ever restaurant review, which happily for all has long since been lost in the ether...

Luke Mackay said...

I went to the Glass House about 6 years ago to impress a girlfriend- had deep fried and poached truffled egg with pigeon, all fancied up and it has stayed with me ever since- was a magical zeit-geisty dish. Was also my first ever restaurant review, which happily for all has long since been lost in the ether...

Oisin Rogers said...

Lovely review. I have always enjoyed the Glasshouse. It's brilliant for lunch IMHO. Worth mentioning the lunch menu and portions are much the same at a fantastic £21/£26 for 2/3 course. And no, I don't work for them Chris!

Eva Lai said...

Looks like you ate a large quantity of food too!

Lizzie said...

That mackerel starter looks huge, and the description sounds less than appetising. Do you think for that amount of money they could perhaps have crisped up the skin? Does anyone like flabby fish skin...?

Jonathan said...

Flabby fish skin. Ugghh. But sounds like a very decent dinner.

Maybe someone needs to do a big survey of restaurant goers to find out how far most of the diners travel to eat at all of the country's restaurants. Then we would know what the average sphere of influence of each restaurant was and would be able to judge whether restaurants were "destination" restaurants like Rules, Le Gavroche etc. and then work out which have a more local clientele which could then be termed "neighbourhood" restaurants. We might then find out some answers and discover that Rules is in fact a "neighbourhood" restaurant, but I suspect it would have an impressively wide pull geographically.

Sounds like a GCSE geography project to me.

Mzungu said...

Even living in Brentford for 3 years, we still never managed to goto Kew and eat there. Shameful...
Now in North London it seems an even more remote idea....

The Fat Robin said...

I always thought the neighbouhood / local distinction was more about clientelle than anything - neighbourhood restaurants open 7 days a week because they aren't relient on client account lunches from city folk as their main source of income.

The acid test of a 'neighbourhood' restaurant has to be brunch. If you cant get eggs benedict and read the paper, you're just another fine dining establishment! Kitchen W8 is a fine example.

I went to the Glasshouse a few years ago and thought it was excellent. Your review has given me the strong desire to return again.

The Fat Robin

fatrobinreviews.blogspot.com

Kew Local said...

Perhaps quite late in leaving this comment but only just stumbled upon this.
Enjoyed reading the review though notably some large errors as regards the mackerel starter. There is definitely no 'creamed cabbage', it is in fact shredded iceberg lettuce bound with an oyster mayonnaise- the mayo being made with oyster juice and oysters themselves. Not being able to differentiate between cabbage and lettuce nor cream and mayonnaise gives me cause for concern as to the level of cuisine knowledge of the reviewer...The miso dressing is made from a combination of miso paste, rice wine vinegar, sugar and rice wine. There is NO orange at all apart from the colour but I agree the flavour is quite strong. The non crispy skin is a travesty.

Otherwise an enjoyable bit of prose.