Ramsay throws off the shackles of fine dining to open this huge new spot at One New Change, serving up uncomplicated grub at prices that shouldn’t break too many banks.
It may have had its teething problems, but Ramsay’s new venture seems to have found its feet somewhat. And it looks like those feet are wearing some pretty natty shoes, as Russell Sage’s design is certainly impressive, with a moody, masculine feel from loads of dark wood and leather banquettes bathed in soft lighting that bounces off brass. Swathes of brushed metal, some very vintage light fittings and plenty of exposed piping up on high add the kind of industrial chic that will make the suits think it edgy, even if this is a venue that’s definitely more City than Shoreditch. For such a huge place there’s a surprising amount of intimacy, with semi-separate dining areas partitioned by the clever design, with a good number of diners being able to catch glimpses of both the huge open kitchen and St Paul’s life ambling by down below. It might not have the views that Barbecoa enjoys, but Gordon certainly trumps Jamie when it comes to interior style.
Funky, inoffensive house provides the very fitting soundtrack to somewhere that clearly doesn’t want its diners to stand on ceremony. It’s all very relaxed, and thankfully the staff seem to be pretty on the ball now they’ve had a bit of time to bed in. Still, adjacent tables do have to ask for the odd thing twice, and there is something of a rushed feel to what can be over-friendly service – something that only a cynic would suggest was anything to do with turning tables. But they certainly could if they were so inclined – it’s packed; filled to the rafters with fans of the big man and a fair few City folk seeing what all the fuss is about. And having a very nice time by the looks of it, which, for the most part, everyone else seems to be doing too.
There’s little that's hugely challenging on this relatively affordable menu – and that’s obviously the point. There’s nothing particularly poncey, it seems to be just about getting decent plates of food to diners simply wanting to eat out, rather than making an occasion of it. Again, it seems pretty well suited to an area that straddles touristy West End and a City that’s no doubt still coming to terms with squeezed expense accounts.
Dishes are knocked up pretty quickly, and with skill, and although there’s a slight skew on the menu toward dishes that match the masculine feel of the restaurant, there’s enough choice to keep most happy. A starter of crispy pig’s head with green chilli mayonnaise (£8.50) sounds like a dish for a man’s man, but it comes as three dainty little croquettes, and the mayonnaise could do with a much bigger chilli kick. However, the meat inside is great – full of earthy depth. Cep toast with poached egg (£12.50) is excellent, with some beautifully fresh mushrooms and perfectly poached egg sporting a yolk of such orange vibrancy it could probably pause traffic.
The poussin with chimichurri (£15) boasts some deliciously tender chicken whose charred skin offers a beautiful bitterness to the sweetness of the meat, but again there seems to be a fear of offending delicate little flowers as the chimichurri could do with a bit more bite. The loin of yellow fin tuna (£20) is faultless though, with fish cooked to a glistening medium rare and served with a red onion and mint salad, coriander, lemon and what tastes (deliciously) like some unadvertised fennel. If it got in there by mistake, it should stay there.
Desserts are luxurious, not least a vanilla and ginger cheesecake (£6.50) served with some outrageously rich – and very good – ginger ice cream. For something a little lighter, the carpaccio of pineapple (£6.50) with pomegranate and orange sorbet is refreshing, and sweet as a button.
Diners are given a surprisingly short wine list, so you get the impression there’s another one ready to hand if any of the big boys come in demanding something extravagant. It’s clearly well-thought out though, and each one is available by the glass or by the half-bottle carafe – which again seems perfectly suited to somewhere much less constrained. The 2009 Chapel Down Bacchus Reserve is brilliant (it tastes like a very good Sancerre), with a half bottle carafe coming in at just £15, though you’re likely to get the other half anyway so don’t kid yourself. Cocktails seem popular, so the bar might be a good place in which to rounds things off, but if you’ve had enough booze they do a mean coffee too.
The Last Word
This place will inevitably have its detractors, with much of the negativity coming merely from its association with someone who they feel has perhaps got too big for his boots. They’d be slightly missing the point though – this feels less like something to massage the Ramsay ego and more about giving people what they want. Something that Bread Street Kitchen seems to do with aplomb.