Tuesday 9 July 2024

64 Goodge Street, Fitzrovia

The first thing we were given to eat at 64 Goodge Street was a little plate of truffle-cream gougères topped with shaved Comté. These turned out to be important for two reasons - firstly, they weren't on the menu and as unannounced bonus extra dishes go you could hardly do more to tap right into my personal pleasure points. Secondly, they were absolutely, extraordinarily wonderful.

And these things are important because the way you react to this (spoiler alert) hopelessly fawning review rather depends on whether you think my critical faculties have been impaired by a group of extremely talented restaurateurs knowing their audience inside-out, or whether you think that despite the near-impossibility of my not enjoying a new venture from the Quality Chop House guys, 64 Goodge Street really is, objectively, as blindingly good as I say. And I very much hope to convince you of the latter.

So yes, those gougères. Warm and silky smooth inside, with a supremely light crust, they packed a heady truffle punch and almost dissolved in the mouth they were so delicately put together. I am able to enjoy even slightly cackhandedly constructed gougères - I mean, what's not to like about truffle, cheese and pastry - but when they're made with care they're great, and when they're this good something very special indeed is going on.

Crudités - baby carrots, radishes, chicory - came with a luxurious Roquefort dip topped with caramelised walnuts. In all fairness, there's only so mind-blowing a plate of raw salad can be, but the Roquefort dip was lovely, and it all looked very pretty and summery.

From here on, almost everything that came out of the kitchen at 64 Goodge Street was not just good but close-your-eyes-and-can't-believe-it's-so good. Chicken liver parfait, as good as chicken liver parfait has ever been in this country or any other, came squiggled (neatly) onto the top of dainty brioche fingers, with some slices of cherry (no doubt treated to some extremely clever cheffy technique) providing sharpness and colour.

Kintyre smoked salmon - which I assume is from Kintyre smokehouse up in Campbeltown but happy to be corrected if I'm wrong - was excellent both on its own and draped over warm blinis and topped with crème fraîche and roe. 64 Goodge Street can do fireworks and fancy techniques, but are also otherwise confident enough in their own skin to occasionally sit back and let the ingredients do the talking.

The fact we didn't order these smoked cod's roe tartines and they appeared as a little blogger bonus extra makes me eternally grateful that I was able to have my terrible ordering blunder so easily rectified, but was left seriously questioning my skills in reading a menu. Of course a smoked cod's roe dish from the team behind Quality Chop House would be good - how on earth did I not spot that? - and these were world class little nibbles, a layer of tarama on a delicate stick of pastry, topped with pickled radish and onion.

Snail, bacon and garlic is never going to be anything less than a winning combination, and treated to the 64 Goodge Street's skill with a deep-fat fryer they became little crisp "bonbons" that exploded with meaty, buttery goodness.

Then, lamb sweetbreads, gorgeous tender bitesize things in a light crisp breadcrumb coating spritzed with some kind of vinegar, then topped with blobs of mint & tarragon purée. Another marriage of brilliant ingredients and dazzling technique in an accessible, deliriously enjoyable little package.

Oh, and so far these were just the "snacks". The menu proper - at least my own - began with this pretty little fillet of sea bass with wild fennel and pastis. The fish itself was - needless to say - beautifully cooked with a delicate crisp skin, and the sauce, creamy and light and heady with aniseed, was a perfect match. But dotted around the place were these little elements of - well I'm not sure, they were sharp and pickled and citrussy, perhaps gooseberry or some other seasonal fruit, and really lifted the dish to something else.

On the other starters, duck sausage and crab with asparagus, I can't report firsthand as they disappeared before I could beg for a taste, but the general consensus from my fellow diners appears to be that they were sophisticated, generous of flavour and extremely enjoyable. And given everything else we were served, I'm quite happy to take them at their word.

My main was a porc - sorry, pork - chop, portioned into even, chunky slices each containing a morsel of tender meat and melty fat. It was all covered in a charcutière sauce, a glossy, meaty affair studded with cute little buttery girolles, spinach and herbs. Perfectly seasoned, masterfully cooked and with one of those fancy French sauces that probably take a lifetime to perfect, it was everything you (or, more importantly, I) would ever need from a pork dish.

I got to try a bit of the turbot, which although perfectly decent perhaps lacked a little bit of the power and dazzle of the pork. This could easily be a personal taste thing though, or even a victim of contrasts - perhaps I should have tried the fish before the pork.

And I didn't get to try the hogget at all, but I heard nothing but satisfied noises coming from those who did. Looks nice too, doesn't it?

All the desserts were at least worth ordering, but I got the impression the Paris-Brest (traditional, in a classic way - none of your weird fruit flavours added to this, thank-you-very-much) and the strawberry tart (fantastic balance of pastry and fruit in a stunning red gelée) were very slightly more accomplished than my own apricot tarte tatin which needed a lot more sugar to counteract the rather sour fruit element. But that said, I still enjoyed it, and the almond ice cream was superb.

Overall though, we had a blast at 64 Goodge Street, and left all agreeing it was one of the best meals any of us had had all year. Which is just as well, because the bill, with 2 bottles of wine between 5, came to £137pp - certainly at the higher end of what you might expect to pay for modern French food in London, even food as sophisticated and intelligently constructed as this.

But it still felt like value, and I'd pay it again on any given future special occasion, because all said and done, when French food is done this well, there's very little that can beat it. Certainly you can pay a lot more for a lot less - especially (whisper it) in France. 64 Goodge Street, like Quality Chop House before it, is a place so good that it makes you that bit more happy (and, let's face it, smug) to live in London. And there's no higher compliment than that.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Still my fav blog... for entertainment only.