And gosh, was it twee. The whole place is indeed fitted out like a shed. Lights hang from tractor fittings and the loos are wallpapered with cartoon farmland print, the type you might get in a child's bedroom. Oil drums serve as tables for two, though when we visited on Saturday night reservation-less we were led to a communal table next to the kitchen's pass. It was stiflingly hot. A complimentary packet of seeds (mustard sprouts for us) are presented to you with your bill.
But I did like it. Perhaps it was because the manager looked a little like R Patz, and you couldn't fault him for his enthusiasm when he told us his story of opening the place with his two brothers. One works in the kitchen, and the other the farm they get their ingredients from. Even when he topped my sherry up with white wine, it was okay as the apology was profuse and the sherry replaced.
The food was hard to choose from, with 2 / 3 dishes recommended per person and at least 90% of the menu I wanted to order. 'Mouthfuls' at £1.50 each were described to us as one-bites; beef tartare on crispbread was excellent, as was the pork crackling with apple sauce. Smoked mackerel pate on a lettuce leaf was something I would wang together for friends at a 70's themed dinner party; I wouldn't order it again.
Split into 'slow cooking' and 'fast cooking' dishes, a crisp-skinned fillet of whiting was served atop a mound of crushed potatoes, loosened by lemon and oil and chilli. This was the dish that I was most loathe to share of the small plate concept in play here; I loved it.
Chorizo with labneh, crispbread and sprout leaves was a hefty portion, with a touch too much of the spiced pork; nevertheless, the cooling yoghurt worked well in making the ideal mouthful. Crispy cuttlefish (above) with almonds on sweet chilli beans was better judged in size; while delicious, any more of it would have become cloying from the sugary spiciness.
Another top dish was chicken hearts with butter lettuce and blood oranges. Butter lettuce is a totally underrated leaf, usually eschewed for the trendier rocket or little gem leaves; here, its floppiness worked perfectly in a lukewarm pan of tender hearts, slightly pink in the middle, and acidic orange segments. It sounds strange, it certainly looked odd but it tasted great.
Hogget cheek braised to tenderness completed our set of dishes; I may have been too full to appreciate it at this point, but it was just fine - no massive fireworks, it was a decently cooked piece of meat on a sweet onion puree, with a superfluous biscuit which I suppose comprised the 'tart' aspect of the onions. A shared pudding was far better received; we wibbled that pannacotta heartily (as you can see...), gobbled down with a glass of English apple brandy.
The bill for two with service, aperitifs and wine brought a slight wince to the face at £110 - maybe because I had to pay it all, having lost a frivolous bet. It's not cheap, but the flavour combinations and quality of ingredients were interesting and unusual enough to make me alright with it.
122 Palace Gardens Terrace
London W8 4RT
Tel: 020 7229 4024
Tel: 020 7229 4024