Tuesday, 28 June 2016
Dickie Fitz, Fitzrovia
One of the strange side-effects of having written a restaurant blog for the best part of a decade is that I inevitably end up reviewing the same site multiple times under different guises. "I remember when all this was Foliage," said the wizened old man in me (never too far from the surface) while settling in for a meal at Dinner by Heston. And though it was sad to see Koya go, we can hardly be too distraught that the same space now houses the wonderful Hoppers. And now, where once was Newman Street Tavern we have the shiny sparkly new Dickie Fitz.
The story of the old Newman Street Tavern (not to be confused with the still-brilliant Newman Arms, though by all accounts that doesn't stop people) is a weird one. When it first opened, and for perhaps the first few months, it was a stately and refined high-end Modern British gastropub, with things like rock oysters and wild garlic soup and serious game like grouse on the menu. They apparently butchered whole animals in-house, did their own curing, and occasionnally featured niche ingredients such as gull's eggs or kid offal. It was, by anyone's standards, a fine restaurant, and I went around happily recommending it to anyone wanting good food in Fitzrovia (then still a bit of a novelty).
Then a while later, perhaps 8-10 months or so, thinking it was the kind of joint that could keep even the most fussy of colleagues happy for a couple of hours, I recommended it as a venue for a work lunch. Yet almost as soon as we sat down I sensed this wasn't the same place I'd reviewed so well in the opening weeks. Staff were distracted and scatty; the handsome raw bar groaning with fresh langoustine and oysters that once bookended the bar downstairs had completely disappeared; and the menu, once a succinct and hand-typed hymn to the seasons, was now redesigned and laminated, with Harvester-like boxes for high-margin items and panicky populist dishes like fish & chips and burgers. What on earth had happened?
I guess we'll never know. But it was no real shock to find that the Newman Street Tavern eventually closed, to be replaced by Antipodean concept Dicky Fitz, and though it's fair to say Dicky Fitz less my kind of thing than the first Newman Street Tavern, it's a darn sight better than the last one, and so there is much to be thankful for.
I'm not sure what constitutes the "short" element of "Lobster short soup" but it was very nice anyway, a vaguely Asian-flavoured clean, dark broth (probably involving dashi) poured over three lobster dumplings. If I'm going to be very critical the dumpling casings themselves were a bit doughy and undercooked, but the broth made up for it.
Asparagus with poached egg is a pretty reliable combination, and won't often stand a great deal of messing about with, but the miso Hollandaise here worked really well, and some nice toasted macadamia nuts added texture. If this is Australian cuisine - intelligent Asian fusion with a lightness of touch and an eye for presentation - then count me a fan.
A lovely thick pork chop, juicy and seasoned well and full of flavour, was another fine advertisment for the skills of the Dickie Fitz kitchens, or rather the skills of their pork suppliers; it really was a fantastic bit of pig. I wasn't 100% sure about the black pudding "sauce" hidden underneath (without the texture of the rusk in a normal black pudding the uniformly smooth, jet-black goop was a bit, er, challenging) but after I'd polished off every last morsel of this dictionary-thick slab of porcine joy, everything else was just a distraction.
Of course I had to try the burger, and even this didn't disappoint. A fantastic loose mince patty with a good crust, nice pickle and a layer of cheese just the right side of melty. The bun didn't have a great deal of flavour but held firm to the last bite, and I didn't even mind the quite large amount of salad as it was all seasoned well with a house sauce.
A nod too to the house fries which although had their skins on (bit lazy really) were doused in chicken salt, a perculiarly Australian seasoning that most actual Aussies are probably completely sick of but I still happen to find guiltily addictive.
So all-in-all, an impressive operation. The site is no longer a charming gastropub, or (thank God) a laminated, unfocused proto-chain but a slick, mature independent restaurant with prices to match the service, décor and yes, standard of food on offer. In short, it's a good restaurant, and there's always room in town for another good restaurant. And I very much hope I won't be back reviewing the same site again in another guise any time soon...
Fitrovia is not a part of town short of great places to eat. Check my app to see them all.