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Medlar in Chelsea, London (one Michelin star)

Rating: 90.
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In October 2012, Michelin awarded 8 London restaurants the coveted Michelin star in their 2013 Great Britain & Ireland guide. The winners were Dabbous, Hedone, Tom Aikens, Launceston Place, Alyn Williams, Trishna, St John and Medlar. Medlar is the brainchild of head chef Joe Mercer Nairne and his business partner and restaurant manager David O'Connor. Before opening their Chelsea restaurant in April 2011, both Joe and David had already gained considerable experience in the restaurant industry. Joe had worked at The Savoy Grill, Michelin starred Chez Bruce and Rockpool, the restaurant of Aussie chef Neil Perry in Sydney, and David had been managing front of house of in two-star The Ledbury, The Square and Chez Bruce.

Medlar is open daily for lunch and dinner. The restaurant offers a 3-course Prix Fixe lunch menu for £26 during weekdays and £30 in the weekends. At dinner the 3-course Prix Fixe menu is £42. These courses can be chosen from a menu with a great selection of starters, mains and desserts. I had lunch with my husband at Medlar on Monday 13 November 2012 and we both had 3 courses and 1 course to share.

My first course was Duck egg tart with red wine sauce, turnip purée, lardons and sautéed duck hart. Well-cooked buttery, crisp pastry served with a superb, glistening duck egg on top. Well-set egg white and a rich and runny (but not too liquid) yellow-orange yolk. Also on the plate were some proper meaty and salty lardons, a glorious dark full-bodied red wine sauce, some flavoursome and nutty mushrooms, a creamy turnip purée and a few soft braised shallots. The duck hart was nice and tender and provided texture and contrast. Hidden underneath the pastry was some lovely wilted spinach that added a nice touch of freshness to the dish. A truly wonderful dish with fantastic well-balanced flavours, hearty but refined and I loved the subtle bitterness from the turnip purée, the consistency of the red wine sauce was perfect.

Next up was a dish that I had spotted immediately on the menu and I couldn't possibly leave the restaurant without having eaten it. Gnocchi with Reblochon, cavolo nero, wet walnuts and pieds de mouton. Perfectly made feather-light gnocchi which had a lovely fluffy consistency. The gnocchi were covered with a cavolo nero and spinach sauce that married well with the potato flavours of the gnocchi. Wonderful warmth and richness from the melted soft Reblochon. The pieds de mouton were nice and meaty. An elegant, well-executed dish with a lovely combination of flavours.

Third and main course: Blade fillet, Café de Paris snails, salad, triple cooked chips, watercress and béarnaise sauce. Excellent pink and juicy blade fillet served with some lovely tender snails. Great crispy chips and a delicious béarnaise, buttery with the perfect touch of sharpness. This is a classic flavour combination and with just a few ingredients everything has to be cooked perfectly and it was; the Café de Paris herbs adding an extra flavour and the snails extra texture. Delicious jus too.

On to the cheese course. Medlar offers a great selection of soft and hard (British) cheeses that were all well-matured. My husband and I shared a selection of six cheeses.

Last course and dessert. Plum beignets with ginger ice cream and custard. Gorgeous sugar-coated beignets with a terrific sweet and tart plum filling. The dough of the beignets was wonderfully airy. Excellent, fresh and creamy, ginger ice cream with lovely sweet heat from the ginger. The vanilla custard was lovely; the consistency was perhaps a bit runny but perfect for dipping the beignets in.

Medlar offers no-nonsense cooking with great ingredients and careful handling. The French bistro may be its inspiration but the quality of the food goes well beyond that level. The execution of the dishes is flawless, the food is inviting, seductive even, hearty but not rustic. This is classic French cuisine with British flair. And do not forget: if you go for a relatively basic style, there is nowhere to hide. Simplicity takes no prisoners. Medlar deftly demonstrates that comfort and finesse are not mutually exclusive. Pricing is surprisingly keen (particularly by Chelsea standards!). The wine list shows inspiration and has lovingly been put together. As The Mamas and The Papas would no doubt have sung: "Medlar, Medlar, so good to me; Medlar, Medlar, it was all I hoped it to be."

Medlar on Urbanspoon

Posted 08-12-2012


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