The Cavendish – Classics with El Bulli Flare:
It takes courage to open your doors to reviews during a soft opening. In the days when I worked for Kennedy Brookes the soft launch was initially for staff, then for ‘friends’ in the form of shareholders and regulars. It certainly wasn’t for anyone who might write up their findings for the public; however tempting that might sound, we preferred to iron out any teething problems in private. The Cavendish, in chic and trendy Marylebone Village is pitching itself against some very successful restaurants and bars including the Chiltern Firehouse, Locanda Locatelli, Orrery and The Providores. How to differentiate? Well, the chef Alfonso Lillo Fas who trained at El Bulli, has chosen to do so by creating a menu of classics with just the occasional twist.
So, we were presented with an amuse bouche of confit octopus with cauliflower puree and watercress and garlic emulsion. Delicious, delicate and beautifully presented, the stunning bowls were just a tad impractical and I resorted to stealing the salt spoon to make the most of the cauliflower and watercress. That was, however, the only ‘soft launch’ issue and the rest of the evening was impeccably slick.
We asked the restaurant to match wine for us, always a good strategy in my book unless I know a menu inside out, and were served with a delicious citrus and elderflower S V Dillons Point Sauvignon Blanc to accompany our starters. As it turns out, The-Hedonist who had joined me on this occasion much preferred my choice of carabinero prawn risotto in a light bisque broth while I really liked his selection of blue lobster bisque with brandy chantilly and pan-fried seaweed, although he’d already eaten all the seaweed before I got a mouthful.
While I liked the risotto, the depth of flavour that my dining companion raved about was just a little too much for me. And, conversely, he thought the bisque a little too light. Which goes to show if you read any of these types of reviews, you need to temper your selection by your own particular taste rather than relying on our opinion. While it is easy enough to pick up and explain ‘wrongs’ there are usually many ‘rights’ and only you will know your own ultimate dish.
I was a little surprised that the fillet steak I’d ordered arrived on the bone. I *think* it was what I know as a porterhouse, lean and tender but with all the flavour of a sirloin. Or, it could have been a minor mix-up – and a T-Bone. There was no point mentioning it, because it was a fine piece of meat and I really didn’t want to change it. Served with a home made béarnaise and a watercress garnish this kind of dish always works well for me when it is carefully cooked and presented. I rather liked the courgette fritters too, very fine and delicate with the lightest of batter. My paired wine, the Medalla Real Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile, 2013 was a perfect match, nicely spicy and with sufficient depth to work well with the steak.
Meanwhile, The-Hedonist was tackling a Dover sole on the bone. It is one of my own favourite fish dishes too, though you don’t often see it on the menu and even when it is available, it is often served de-boned, which in my opinion loses some of the flavour. He happily filleted away, and seemed to enjoy the spinach and potatoes that were served as classic accompaniments together with a healthy portion of lemon and saffron sauce. While he found the wine offered, Buitenverwachting, Constantia, South Africa, Chardonnay 2013, a little too oaky I suspect that is another of those ‘personal taste’ issues.
In keeping with our retro menu choices, my arm was twisted without any problem to have the Crepes Suzette. Our charming host explained that the version he served included benedictine used for a second ‘flambe’ using a curl of orange peel as well as the traditional cointreau. Of course one of the biggest advantages of having a table-side dish is that you have just a little breather while your dish is cooked. Enough to recover and enjoy your dessert to the full.
Delicious, retro food updated and improved. And of course, perfect with a glass of Sauternes.
Coffee and tea came with some tiny, delicate macaron. All in, a polished and refined dinner.
There are more contemporary sounding dishes on the menu and a fine raw bar of seafood. But, the main courses are dominated by classics. And, where they are cooked and presented so immaculately, why chose anything else?
35 NEW CAVENDISH ST
MARYLEBONE LONDON W1G 9TR