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A Local Worth a Journey – Charlotte’s Place:
Having moved to Walworth, somewhere that seems to have escaped the ‘neighbourhood restaurant’, I’d all but forgotten how good it is to have good food and excellent cooking on your doorstep. In fairness, I can walk from where I live north-ish to Borough and Maltby Street, or south to Peckham and Camberwell. And the cafe culture here is really good ; I am hardly deprived. But, having somewhere within a five minute walk that serves a reasonably priced, seasonal and local lunch and dinner menu would be a treat.
While Ealing is the other side of town to me, a five course tasting menu for under £30 needed checking out. A showcase for the chef in a local restaurant with just three kitchen staff. Though Lee Cadden’s heritage at the Bingham in Richmond and working with Claude Bosi at the Malt House in Fulham might mean he could pull it off. We met both Lee and the owner, Alex Wrethman, a man with a clear vision for his group of local restaurants.
On the corner of a pretty residential street, just opposite Ealing Common, Charlotte’s Place IS the sort of place I’d like on my own doorstep. Inside, the cosy modern interior seats a total of 40 covers, half upstairs, half down. And, the tasting menu, available at lunch time only, is five courses and an amuse bouche.
We started with baby potato skins, filled with potato mousse, sour cream and a crumbled topping of parmesan crisp. A lovely amuse bouche – I’d have eaten more.
Then, Isle of Wight tomatoes, a mixture of a light sorbet, some gently cooked fresh tomatoes and a little puree, served with Jersey milk curd and crumbled black olives. Full of the kind of tomato flavour you don’t seem to get any more, I loved the addition of a little black olive and milk curd to soften the acidity of the fruit.
The next dish might just have been my favourite. River Fowey mussels in a light broth with air dried ham, smoked onions in a sweetcorn broth. Poetry on a plate, this was a particularly well balanced dish and I felt for the Peskytarian Hedonist because the air dried ham added a salty richness to the mixture.
I went on to enjoy chargrilled bavette with chervil root. A challenging cut of beef, bavette or flank steak can be chewy. Here it had been cooked in a sous-vide to ensure tenderness without overcooking, then finished off on the grill for that lovely, caramelised outer layer.
The Hedonist of course, couldn’t eat the meat. Instead, he was given a beautiful plate of thyme gnocchi, with cep and English pea fricassee. I was almost jealous. Golden brown gnocchi parcels nestled in the fricassee, garnished with pea shoots and cep mushroom. It seemed almost Autumnal, very much in keeping with the weather!
Next up should have been English strawberries with frozen lemon curd. My strawberry allergy meant that instead I had a plate of berries, served with the same frozen lemon curd. All very delicious, the creamy lemon curd was a great complement for the blackberries.
A nod to the past, condensed milk cream horn with granny smith apple compote and apple vinegar ice cream was technically accurate, but, perhaps for me, the least appealing of the dishes.
It all depends on whether you would have picked the cream horn from the box of cakes for tea – or gone for the chocolate eclair. I’ve always been a chocolate eclair kind of girl, traditional puff pastry (which should be made with lard and butter) is just not to my taste for cakes.
Overall though, any issues we had with the menu were more down to personal taste than to any issue in the kitchen. What we were served ticked a lot of boxes – the food was fresh, seasonal, for the most part locally source and everything was presented beautifully
This must be London’s best value tasting menu – even if you dine at the weekend when the price is just under £35.
16 St Matthew’s Road,
London W5 3JT