Where… ‘The Chef is as interesting as the Food’
The New Angel Restaurant, 39 Chepstow Place Notting Hill London W2 4TS
0207 221 7620
Food: 4 stars
Atmosphere: 4 stars
Service: 4.5 stars
Design: 4 stars
Value for money: 3.5 stars (for the lunch menus)
Overall: 4 stars
(All photos in this post taken by NHYM Copyright 2014)
Notting Hill, The Foodie
Notting Hill is becoming a serious foodie destination with the 2* Michelin restaurant The Ledbury making it to the number 10 spot on the 50 Best Restaurants in the World List (http://www.theworlds50best.com/list/1-50-winners/the-ledbury). Not only that but Marianne’s, the runner up Masterchef Marianne Lumb’s new restaurant made it to the Number 1 spot as London’s Best Restaurant on Tripadvisor at one point in a few months (now in 9th spot: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurants-g186338-London_England.html), which I will be reviewing next month. And finally, Russell Norman, the ‘king of small plates’ is opening a Polpo on Notting Hill Gate any time now. The New Angel, which has quietly come on the scene a few weeks ago without our even knowing, is another serious contender. I am not a huge fan of the name (makes me think of a born-again-evangelical-preacher. The Chepstow Place or The Burton would have done just fine), and it is in a converted Victorian pub below the well-loved Assaggi, which has changed hands every few years, but coming from the infamous and very controversial celebrity chef John Burton Race (JBR), I was ready for some surprises.
The Chef: John Burton Race
(JBR, his ex-mistress-now-wife, and Donna Air at The New Angel’s Opening Party)
I could write a whole article on JBR’s scandals, divorces, double-life-love-child-progeny, bankruptcy, resisting arrests and huge rows with fellow contestants on ‘Celebrity Get Me Out of Here,’ but this a restaurant review not a gossip column. It’s surprising his Memoirs haven’t been written or an HBO Biopic hasn’t been made of him yet. JBR has quite a professional and personal history behind him; a two time Michelin 2* Chef (L’Ortolan and The Landmark Hotel, via training at Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons), he became a TV personality in the reality shows ‘French Leave,’ ‘Return of The Chef’,’ and even ‘Celebrity Get Me Out Here’ amongst others (there has to be some attention-seeking and egotism for him to agree to do the latter show). He has also been slandered in the press as a scandalous ‘love-rat’ when he was found cheating on his wife with his mistress of 4 years and having a 2 year old child with her. His then wife, Kim, famously closed down the original ‘The New Angel’ restaurant while JBR was out cooking up tarantulas in the jungle. He only learned about this as he came out of his Kangaroo-escapade when he was evicted and the paps accosted him for a comment. It is difficult not to mention all of the above, but we are here for the food, I repeat. (http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2008/apr/27/recipes.foodanddrink).
(Delicious Steak Tartare and divine Horseradish Sorbet – a must try)
We arrived on Saturday evening at 8pm to find the restaurant pleasantly busy but nowhere near full. The staff, the Italian Maitre d’, the French waiter and Csaba, the assistant restaurant manager, were all attentive and smiling, enthusiastic to work for one of the Greats. The restaurant’s decor is warm with brown colours, gold leaf wallpaper and the owl sculptures in the back room are a hit with the girls. The music was an elevator jazz music until it stopped abruptly, a very minor negative of the evening. In the back wall there is a very small garden which is lit up at night and softens the atmosphere. The menu has familiar haute cuisine ingredients; fillets of John Dory, Scottish salmon, roasted rack of Devonshire lamb, quail’s eggs, and wasn’t trying too hard to be unique (unlike Heston and Nuno’s menus). Two courses for £44 and three courses for £54 at dinner , and with a £20-something lunch menu (I think I must have been dreaming), it is actually rather good value-for-money.
Now for the food. It is very easy to get distracted by JBR’s celebrity and notoriety that I wondered whether his culinary skills would be as sharp as his tongue. I chose the hand dived scallops with curried cauliflower and onion Bhaji as a starter and the poached line caught seabass with an oyster beignet in a Champagne and caviar sauce as a main (this dish was conceived with bedding a woman in mind; Champagne, oysters, and caviar? The ultimate aphrodisiac dish) , which were both very good although I didn’t love the baby fennels. My sister, whose birthday we were celebrating, and her husband had the foie gras starter (tasted right out of South West France), which was a perfectly chosen and terrined foie gras. Mr. C had the Steak Tartare started with Horseradish sorbet- Yum! My favourite starter of the night, I want to go back for another bite. He then had the Dutch Veal with Cepes and Truffle Tortellini as a main, which was my favourite main of the night. The strawberry millefeuille gariguette and the raspberry soufflé and white chocolate side were indulgent and the after-dessert petits fours of salted caramel truffles and white chocolate macaroons were just divine. All I can say is that all the dishes were perfectly executed, a pleasure to look at, and the tastes were very well balanced, not too overbearing, not too limp, showing a mastery that only comes from over 30 years of experience.
This is modern European cuisine with French influence at its best, achieving what JBR sets out to do; ‘conjuring creative yet simple dishes from seasonal ingredients.’ It is meant to be a neighbourhood restaurant but has world class cooking and food, so this neighbourhood feel will unfortunately surely disappear in time. The restaurant feels like the Ledbury before it became famous when a young 28 year old Brett Graham set out to take over the culinary world, fresh, enthusiastic, and powerful, except that this a veteran chef with a colourful past of adultery, reality TV and a foul mouth who continues to prove himself in a class of his own. This is a Michelin starred restaurant in the making, so I suggest that you make a reservation now before it becomes another exclusive two-month-wait-list restaurant like The Ledbury and Marianne’s.
Top 10 New Restaurants in 2014 The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/shopping-and-consumer-news/11270666/The-10-best-new-restaurants-in-London.html?frame=3127908
Top 100 Best Restaurants in the UK Opentable: www.opentable.co.uk/m/best-restaurants-in-united-kingdom/