Flavour Bastard: Eye-catching (November 2017)

It’s a pity that the first thing any diner will think when they encounter this restaurant almost certainly relates to its name. Sure, it’s pretty silly (but surely no worse than Sexy Fish?), but that’s half the point – it gets people talking; they’re curious about the place, maybe intrigued enough to go and discover what the buzz is all about. My comrade and I were impressed during our visit, and sufficiently so that I would return. Located on the site of the former Arbutus restaurant (and containing some of its former employees), this is a serious restaurant, with a notable emphasis on innovation and presentation. To the extent that the word ‘bastard’ might be at all relevant, then it would be in the sense that the dishes assembled by the team here lack any formal heritage or lineage. In other words, and although the term is often over-used, what diners get here is a genuinely eclectic mix of dishes. Unconventional ingredients and flavours are paired – and generally with a high degree of success. The logic of ‘tiny’ plates (at ~£5) and ‘small’ plates (at up to £10) is that one can sample a very broad range of culinary experimentation at the restaurant We shared three of the tiny dishes and then progressed onto six smaller plates, which was more than adequate. The majority were a success. From the tiny offerings, the white lentil, chorizo and percorino doughnuts were carb-heavy balls of intense flavour – deeply satisfying. Onto the mains, and the smoked goat, pomegranate, orange and mooli dish was a notable stand-out, as was the pork belly (even if the bacon jam which accompanied the latter was perhaps unnecessary). Less successful were the sardines (lacking in flavour and unmemorable) and the Burford brown egg with raw celeriac and black truffle (similarly flavourless, and with only an after-thought of truffle). Throughout, each dish was a wonder to behold, with real thought applied to presentation, colour contrast and decoration. Even if some of the staff were slightly gauche (and in need of better training), an element of the kitchen’s enthusiasm had certainly permeated through to them too. Finally, a mention on the drinks: every wine on the list can be purchased by the glass – a welcome decision, even if we did opt for a bottle. Go, enjoy, and prepare to be positively surprised.