Saturday, June 25, 2011

Sally Clarke's, yes yes yes

Hutchings Walk, London, June 22, 2011—
IT'S ONLY THE THIRD time I've been to this restaurant, so I don't really know it well enough to promote it to my list of Five Restaurants. But herewith I do, for this was a spectacularly successful evening out at table. Sally Clarke opened her restaurant in 1984. She'd returned to London the previous year following four years in California, where she met Alice Waters, whose Chez Panisse was both inspiration and model for Clarke's.

Three of us had the fixed menu:
Pea and gem lettuce risotto with mint, chicken stock, aged parmesan, and prosecco
Chili-fried Cornish squid, lemon and pale aubergine with aioli, green rocket and fennel
Charentais melon, red wine sorbet with brown sugar palmier

But I had had enough of sea food after a month in Venice, and asked instead for
Breast of corn fed chicken filled and roasted with basil, herbed Umbrian lentils, spring onion and marinated Italian peppers

The risotto was about as perfect as anything ever gets. The ingredients, the concept, the technique were admirable. The rice was beautifully cooked, with the slightest kernel of resistance at the center of each grain; the chicken stock was full-flavored yet delicate in its presentation; the peas and finely-cut lettuce added their notes of texture, color, and flavor to the dish without standing out; the Prosecco was an inspired idea, I thought, balancing the richness of the cheese.

My chicken was everything you could ask, meaty and rich, nicely flavored with basil leaves under the skin, and the lentils were outstanding: tiny, smoky, redolent. They and the peppers and onions spoke of intelligent sourcing and a magnificent olive oil. The other three were ecstatic over their squid, but I was happy I'd held out for chicken.

The melon was first-rate and the sorbet was very nicely made, up to the sorbetti we'd been having in Venice. But that brown-sugar palmier threatened to run away with the prize: perfectly crisp and thousand-leafed in its texture, rich with the brown sugar and butter. (I should note that the breads we'd been served were also amazingly well made, and of excellent flour.)
Petit Chablis
Clarke’s Restaurant, 122 & 124 Kensington Church Street, London W8 4BH; 020-7221 9225

No comments: