News of a new restaurant is always cause for excitement among London foodies, especially when it’s set to open in the heart of your neighbourhood.
Well in this case there was even more reason for my intrigue, once word quickly spread that the restaurant in question, Hatchetts, has been inspired by the historic Piccadilly-based hotel and coffee house, tracing its roots back to Dickens’ time…
The new bar and restaurant is situated around the corner from the original location, taking over a not so long ago-derelict site on White Horse Street in Shepherd Market.
It’s an area of Mayfair which delivers quirk, character and neighbourhood charm in versatile spades, having started life – all the way back in the eighteenth century – as an open ground where the annual May fair was held.
It’s evolved quite a bit since then, now more known for its eclectic culinary offerings rather than its infamous long-standing reputation as a red light district… It’s where today, you’ll find the much-lauded Kitty Fishers and achingly trendy Lou Lou’s night club, both less than a minute away from a Polish-Mexican cafe which goes by a French name, L’Autre (I kid you not).
My first impression of Hatchetts, was that it feels very much at home here.
Greeted on arrival by a faintly-smiling King James II, we headed past the softly-illuminated bar area to the dining room downstairs – a surprisingly large space with private rooms tucked away at the back.
We had been expecting a rather old-school look and feel to place… so I’ll admit that we were initially a bit thrown, finding the ambience as abstract as the artwork lining the walls (which themselves featured a mix of exposed brick and subdued red and cream hues). The somewhat distressed flooring only added to our overall confusion – we weren’t quite sure what to make of it all.
But all such peripheral ponderings were quickly dispelled as we broke bread, took a refreshing sip of champagne and turned our attention squarely to the menu from head chef Andrew Evans, who’s previously worked with Mark Hix, Gordon Ramsay and Marcus Wareing to casually name a few.
I was particularly thrilled to see a vegetarian-friendly selection “from the land,” as it’s usually such a rarity in British cuisine!
We started with crisp-battered Kentish Courgette Flower, gently stuffed with lemon ricotta and served with a char-grilled flat white peach, which although marinated in just olive oil and a touch of seasoning, sang with a beautiful intensity of flavour.
For mains, I tucked into a “Prima Vera ” risotto made with the king of rice, Carnaoli, and fresh greens including asparagus, peas and beans. The razor-sharp hint of lemon and mint was a brilliant addition, rendering the dish a light and very summer-appropriate choice.
While my bestie, Megan’s Chicken Glazed Cod was such a thing of beauty, I couldn’t help but share it on my #FeedFeed, for the first time breaking my implicit rule to keep my Instagram page a vegetarian-only zone.
Megs loved the contrasting textures artfully embodied in the cod’s preparation, with the perfectly crisp outer skin revealing a moist and tender centre. Not to mention all the trimmings on the side – steamed cockles and clams, seaweed jelly and other sea shore findings!
In the astute words of Oscar Wilde, I can resist everything but temptation… effortlessly finding room for a Dark Chocolate Marquis, which arrived with dollops of smooth milk chocolate mousse, cherry glaze and cherry sorbet.
The tart lusciousness of the cherries proved a sharp foil to the rich indulgence of all that chocolate, making for a decadent yet well-balanced dessert… And as with much of what else we had, it showcased the restaurant’s unique twist to simple and classic dishes.
So, my overall verdict?
Fantastic fare served up by a warm and friendly staff, in admittedly relaxed (even if slightly mixed) surroundings… I’m not sure that I could have asked for more in my new local!
Hatchetts, 5 White Horse St, London W1J 7LQ