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28 December 2007

Patterson's

For some reason I have been finding it difficult to write-up my dinner at Patterson's and I'm not sure why.

It's not because of a conflict of interest, but I should come clean. My table was treated particularly well because I'm friendly with one of the owners. He did me a massive favour getting me a table for dinner with the boys at very short notice, a week before Christmas. We had fantastic service throughout and a fair amount of free food and drinks, in addition to what we ordered.

So back to my problems writing about this dinner. As I say, I'm not sure why I have a problem, my thoughts are pretty straightforward: this is a great restaurant that serves very good food, has attentive, but unobtrusive service and on the night we went, had a great atmosphere.

But in some respects it is a restaurant of contradictions.

Both the kitchen and front-of-house are exceptionally confident. For example, my starter of smoked poached duck egg was inspired. The lentil ragout was nice, but I sat there loving the egg. I'm still trying to figure out how they infused it with smoke. I can only assume they put raw eggs in a cold smoker (like smoked salmon, as opposed to hot smoking brisket) and then poach them. It was a fun dish that had interesting flavours but otherwise wasn't too fussy and was all the better for it. It was clear from this starter that the kitchen knew its game, innovative and with the execution to back it up.

Similarly, being a family run restaurant (dad and son in the kitchen, mum tending front of house) ensures it is a slick operation. But, despite this confidence, I couldn't help but feel that they tried a bit too hard with the food - especially the presentation. It was if the kitchen was trying to prove a point.

The Patterson family and their business partners, own one of London's leading fish suppliers, in addition to the restaurant. As such, the fish they serve and the way they cook it is excellent.

My main of sea-bass was some of the best fish I've had in London in a long-time. As was an amuse geule of haddock. Both of the fish were so good, I'd have been quite happy with them by themselves. They weren't quite in the realm of Chez Panisse's single peach but comparably, I would guess, not too far off.

Why then did they feel it necessary to embellish the plate with all those blooming swirls and frills on the plate? The sauce vierge with my sea-bass was very good and went well with the fish. But there was no need to make the plate look like Jackson Pollock was on the pass. Someone in the kitchen was letting their inner artiste get the better of themselves.

My dessert was the weakest of the three courses. Although the crème brulée - the main event - was nigh on perfect, its accompanying pain d'epice ice-cream was what Silverbrowess would describe as pishy: not one thing or the other.

These gripes are not enormous but given my personal connection I want this restaurant to be as good as it can be, and I reckon it's not far off achieving that. For some reason Patterson's is not well known, but it deserves to be. At £13 for starters, £17 for mains and £10 for dessert, at dinner, and with a very reasonable wine list, it represents some of the best value for money in London.

The ingredients are top quality, with cooking to match. I strongly suggest you try at least one fish dish while you're there. In addition, you'll be well looked after and probably have a fun time. My gripes should be read within this context. The kitchen can take a chill pill. Let your food and your cooking do the work. Sod the art lesson.

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Patterson's, 4 Mill Street, London, W1S 2AX, UK
Tel: +44 (0)20 7499 1308

What others think

Jay Rayner, The Observer - a damn fine place
Square Meal - ...the imaginative bold food has done all the talking
Giles Coren, The Times - good cooking...and not unreasonable prices

Comments

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Happy New Year Anthony and all the best for 2008.

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