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The Square in London - 2 Michelin stars

Rating: 93.
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Next year restaurant The Square in London will celebrate its 25th anniversary, making it the longest running two Michelin starred restaurant in London after Le Gavroche. Executive chef and co-owner since the beginning is Phil Howard (b. 1967), who had worked alongside Marco Pierre White at Harvey's and Simon Hopkinson at Bibendum before opening The Square in 1991. The Square was awarded its first Michelin star in 1994 at the then location in King Street in London's St James's. In 1997 the restaurant moved to its current premises in Mayfair and the following year The Square was awarded a second Michelin star. Philip Howard also co-owns the two Michelin starred World's 50 hotspot The Ledbury in Notting Hill (Brett Graham is an alumnus of The Square) and one-star Kitchen W8 in Kensington.


(courtesy of The Square)

The Square is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Sunday (no lunch on Sunday). The restaurant offers an a la carte menu (3 courses £90), a tasting menu (9 courses £115) and there's a set lunch menu (2 courses £32.50, 3 courses £37.50). I had lunch with my husband at The Square on Friday 14 November 2014 and we both ordered the 9-course tasting menu.

Lunch started with an amuse bouche of chicken jelly, chestnut and chervil root bavarois, freshly grated chestnut, brown sauce marmalade and bacon crumbs. A delightful amuse bouche with an attractive build up of flavours. The chicken jelly was flavoursome and delicate, nice creaminess from the bavarois, the marmalade delivered a touch of savoury-sweet stickiness and finally there was a nice hint of smokiness from the bacon crumbs.


Next to arrive was the first course of the tasting menu, "Game consommé with a selection of game canapés". First to be savoured was a delicious, lightly seasoned venison tartare served on a cracker. Then there was a mallard (wild duck) and cep kebab served with a sweet and mildly sharp quince and apple puree, and a slice of homemade game sausage topped with brown sauce, the latter adding a nice touch of caramel sweetness. The final canapé was a venison Kromeski (croquette). The dark consommé, made with pigeon, mallard and grouse, had sublime, intense game flavours.


 

Second course was "Cornish mackerel with Loch Ryan oysters, pickled cucumber, fennel pollen and toasted English muffin". At the bottom of the serving glass was a lightly dressed mackerel tartare, followed by crunchy pickled cucumber, oyster cream, oyster leaves, some juicy prawns and finally a fresh oyster and some salmon caviar. The mackerel flavours got a bit lost, but otherwise this was a really lovely and elegant dish with great textures and fresh and briny flavours; the toasted muffins added a nice warm touch.


This was followed by one of The Square's signature dishes "Lasagne of Dorset crab with a cappuccino of shellfish and Champagne foam". An expertly made, airy and moist crab and scallop mousse, sandwiched between two sheets of parsley lasagna, with a pale champagne foam spooned over, and almost floating on a foamy shellfish cappuccino. A fantastic dish that sings classic luxurious goodness.


Fourth course was "Stuffed and glazed chicken wings with cauliflower purée, white truffle and roasting juices". Wonderfully tender and flavoursome chicken stuffed with a chicken mousse, which had melted away, thus adding extra flavour and moistness to the meat. The sliced leeks underneath the chicken added nice, fresh onion flavours to the dish. Lovely smooth and buttery puree with light cauliflower flavours. Altogether an intense but elegant combination, the freshly shaved truffle adding aroma and acting as a great flavour enhancer.


Fifth course was "Fillet of turbot with chestnut spätzle, cauliflower, sprout tops and chanterelles". An excellent piece of succulent and nicely caramelised turbot, accompanied by a slice of soft and fleshy cep, and served with some wilted kale, chestnut spätzle and some grated chestnut. The distinctive sweet nuttiness of the cep and the chestnut complemented the turbot perfectly, the spätzle being a nice creative touch.


Next up was "Breast of Yorkshire grouse with a croustillant of the leg, crushed celeriac, young turnip, quince and smoked bacon". Beautifully cooked breast, with just the right firm and moist texture, and with a delicious bacon crumble topping. Underneath the grouse was the crushed celeriac and there also was some smooth and creamy celeriac puree. The croustilliant was crisp and golden on the outside and soft on the inside. A perfectly executed grouse dish with fantastic, distinct, livery grouse flavours, the celeriac delivering a lovely contrast.


Seventh course was "Vacherin Mont d'Or with fresh honeycomb, pear and white truffle". A delightfully aromatic dish of creamy and slightly tangy Vacherin served with some juicy pear, mildly sweet, fresh honeycomb and freshly shaved white truffle.

This was followed by the eighth course, "Brillat Savarin Cheesecake with clementine and yoghurt ice cream". An absolutely marvellous cheesecake, creamy with wonderfully distinct Brillat Savarin flavours coming through. The cheesecake had a delicious almond biscuit base and was covered with a layer of clementine jelly. Well-made yoghurt ice cream, which provided a nice refreshing contrast. A brilliant combination of flavours, an indulgent delight with each bite.


Final and ninth course was "Provence quince soufflé with Darjeeling tea and Bergamot ice cream". The masterfully made, fluffy, delicate soufflé, lightly caramelised and evenly cooked throughout, was complemented by a creamy and floral bergamot ice cream, that had subtle peppery notes. Equally good was the elegantly sweet and mildly smoky tea sauce. Phil Howard's soufflés are among the most celebrated in London and rightfully so.


In recent years, there has been quite a lot of controversy about 'fine dining' and 'tasting menus'. Some consider them out of date and 'not in sync with the times'. Those who hold these views are perhaps not likely to find their way to The Square, the embodiment of Mayfair fine dining. If they would do so however, they would find that Philip Howard and head chef Gary Foulkes deliver sophisticated, elegant food, based on the best of British ingredients. The wonderfully seasonal tasting menu (extensive, but not over the top) provided an excellent overview of the classically based, restrained style of cooking at The Square. This is outstanding food, prepared with exceptional skill by chefs who weave subtle, creative touches into their dishes, but who are clearly unruffled by the latest 'en vogue' ingredients or techniques. The Square continues to be among the best restaurants in London, unashamedly delivering the full-on fine dining experience. "Une valeur sûre", as the French would say.


Posted 11-01-2015




 
 
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