Tom goes upmarket

Like hardened SAS assassins crossing a heavily guarded border, we bravely fought off icy winds and snow to enjoy a complimentary menu test at One Blenheim Terrace, St. John’s Wood, via a quick, warming nip in The Salt House.

Immediately apparent as smart and upmarket, the friendly greeting preventing things from being over-formal, my initial concern was would they let someone as scruffy and yob-like as me onto the premises? Fortunately, they did.

The menu lists classic dishes, which are then twisted a little and modernised in the kitchen; pleasingly, it was difficult to make a decision initially, due to the appealing options presented.

Starting with a “welsh rarebit”, I received a delicate yet rich little combination of soufflé, white onion & cider soup, cheddar croutons and roast button onions. Strong flavours and a satisfying mix of textures – a clever and quite delicious plate.

Jonathan went with the organic cured salmon in a cucumber consommé (the full, intriguing description stating also oak smoke, miso caramel, pickled cauliflower, and coriander cress) and this was a great success too: “Excellent. A reminder of summer on a snowy evening”.

Next up for me was the bouillabaisse. This focused on various market fish rather than including shellfish and, with its powerful base, saffron potatoes and lightly cooked fennel, there were contrasts and dimensions to the dish that were interesting and moreish. A trio of vegetables were requested, which arrived as a little salad, broccoli, and the highlight; duck fat roast potatoes, which were (no need for any foodie terms here), amazing!

Jonathan seemed pleased with his whole boned wood pigeon, foie gras, forest mushrooms, beetroot, roast potato, and pear, although he requested it without the beetroot, as this, I gather, makes his ears glow purple and flash on and off. “A no nonsense game bird cooked extremely well”, apparently – and believe me, he knows all about no-nonsense, game birds.

With both eager anticipation and pure gluttony, I looked forward to chef’s take on black forest gateaux to finish with. A crisp dark chocolate exterior gave way to various delights, with a bit of booze and a jammy cherry sauce. A brittle base added crunch, and all in all this was a surprisingly fulsome dessert and a nice way to end.

From the interesting wine list I went for the Chilean carmenère, a grape which, I gather, is hard to get exactly right and requires quite specific conditions and terroir (I’m making this up, but who cares, it sounds correct). This was well described by our waiter (service was excellent throughout, I should add) – and most enjoyable. Suffice it to say, I stayed with this drop for the whole evening. Jonathan was impressed with the selection by the glass, while I was pleased with the elegant, tasting-style glasses.

We twice received an amuse-bouche between courses; both were fun, the latter slightly dividing our opinion with its popcorn warm milkshake / cream idea, served in a small cylindrical vessel.

One Blenheim is a classy restaurant with flair and confidence oozing from its pores – and kitchen. Perhaps next time I’ll adapt a radical change of image and arrive in a jacket, and just for once, without broken headphones draped round my shoulders; this restaurant warrants such respect.

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