Monday, 5 January 2015
Kitty Fisher's, Mayfair
It's Christmas Eve (babe), and having being the only person stupid enough to fight my way into a deserted office to do a final morning of work before the Great Central London Shutdown, I thought I deserved a nice lunch. A little office Christmas party of my own, maybe, where I get to choose the venue, don't have to mark in a shared spreadsheet a preference for "turkey" or "mushroom", and doesn't end with anyone being sick in a bin. Well, that was the plan.
First, the parts of the Cheese and Biscuits Office Christmas party that went to plan:
1) The venue - Kitty Fisher's in Shepherds Market, Mayfair, is a teeny, ramshackle Dickensian spot that couldn't have felt more festive if it were designed by Disney. Downstairs an open kitchen bathes some of the low-ceilinged room in soft fluorescence, and the rest of it flickers with candlelight. Upstairs a small bar and a couple of tables look out over the quaint pedestrianised square as the last remaining Christmas office workers shuffled home. I'd like to say snow was lightly falling and Prime Minister Hugh Grant was rushing across town to chat up his secretary, only he wasn't. Still, you get the picture.
2) The food - everything. Was. Brilliant. OK, perhaps not absolutely every last bit of everything, but enough so that the overall effect was a masterclass in modern British cooking; inspirational, innovative dishes presented with confidence and flair, even more astonishing when you find out the head chef looks young enough to still be at university.
And the parts that didn't go to plan? I'll get to that. First, more on the food.
I didn't have my fancy camera with me, but hopefully even without you'll be able to tell there's something quite special going on at Kitty Fishers. The first dish to arrive was a steak tartare, superb aged beef with a faint horseradish tang and crunchy caraway (I think) seeds. Superficially straightforward but enigmatically greater than the sum of its parts, it was a theme that was to continue throughout the afternoon.
Grilled sourdough with my favourite new thing in the entire world - "burnt onion butter". Bright white whipped butter with a beguiling note of grilled onion, it pains me to say it but it was even greater than the house whipped butter at the Dairy, and that has bloody bone marrow in. The bread was fantastic, lightly oiled and chargrilled to perfection, but this was really all about that butter, a fluffy barbecued cream which dissolved in the mouth leaving only a faint hint of smokey allium.
Any restaurant that has the confidence to serve three warmed fillets of oiled anchovy on a plate and for it not to feel like a scam is clearly ahead of their game. I can't tell you where they were from, or even how much they usually cost (they were off menu and I don't think charged for) but they were lovely, meaty things, not overly salty but with loads of flavour.
Salt hake croquettas with aioli - greaselessly fried, packed full of the good stuff and with a light mayonnaise that wasn't too thick or too garlicky. About as good a plate of saltfish croquettas with aioli as you'd ever want, in other words.
Next the only dish I wasn't mad about but that's probably because I've never been a huge fan of whole chestnuts. I don't mind chestnut stuffing or even (on the one occasion I tried it) chestnut liqueur, but the whole nuts are often quite unpleasantly soily in texture. Festive, though, and plenty of other people seem to like them so I'll give Kitty Fishers the benefit of the doubt.
Burrata, beetroot & clementine quite sensibly gave us a great big wodge of what we really came here for (a vast, loose burrata, strongly seasoned and drizzled with oil) and left the other ingredients to play accompaniment. This was, if I'm being brutal, perhaps the least cutting-edge of the dishes on offer but still managed to impress.
If you were to tell me before my visit to Kitty Fishers that the best bit of a world-famous Galician ex-dairy cow steak dish would be the accompanying potatoes then I'd probably have laughed in your face. But here we were anyway, eating pink fir spuds stuffed with Tunworth cheese and drizzed with homemade mustard dressing and wondering if any potatoes had ever tasted better in the history of planet earth. Try and imagine each as a sort of bitesized raclette, with melted soft cheese, potato and a tang of sweet mustard combining to assault every one of the foodie pleasure points - fat, salt, sugar, carbohydrate.
Oh yes, and the steak wasn't bad either.
There was more. Duck, pink and juicy, with black cabbage, cranberry and chervil root. A red mullet escabeche which managed a bright white, firm flesh next to some expertly grilled skin. Lamb cutlets, yet another example of a masterful use of a direct heat source, with heart & liver presented separately cutely skewered on rosemary stalks. I wish I could go into more detail, only by this stage I'm afraid I was somewhat suffering from the effects of a failure of part 3) of the plan - to stay (relatively) sober.
Whether it was the first couple of glasses of house fizz (why not, it's Christmas) to the endless parade of fantastic wines that kept appearing at the table (why not, it's Christmas), to God knows what happened after around 3pm (why not, it's Christmas), events somehow conspired to ensure the impromptu Cheese and Biscuits Office Christmas party was, in one key area - quantity of alcohol consumed per capita - not too dissimilar to many other such parties happening across the capital. And I can try blaming the restaurant for being so damn good, or even a group of friends who by sheer coincidence were able to join me just after I'd finished my starter, but really the ultimate responsibility lies with me. I am weak, and I got drunk, and I'm not entirely convinced at some point I wasn't sick in a bin.
But even before I lost my critical faculties to the Ghost of Christmas Present, Kitty Fisher's had done enough to convince me that it is one of London's most exciting new restaurants. With an impeccable eye for good ingredients, coupled with command of a range of techniques on hand to make the most of them; a menu that while not anything that can be described as 'budget' (I drunkenly insisted they took £100 from my credit card but I'm sure a more sensible spend per head is about £60) yet is still great value, and service that makes you want to stay the night, it ticks almost every box you could care to think up. I'll be back - hoping they've not run out of the Galician beef, eager to see what other surprises they can come up with, and - with any luck - not quite so drunk.