The developing trend for big-name chefs with big money restaurants is to open more casual spin-offs. Ollie Dabbous has followed up his eponymous Michelin-starred spot with down and dirty Barnyard; while L’anima Café has popped up next to Francesco Mazzei’s City Italian L’anima; Angela Hartnett has opened Café Murano in Mayfair to complement her loftier Murano down the road; and Alain Ducasse has launched Rivea in Knightsbridge, not far from his three Michelin-starred restaurant at The Dorchester on Park Lane.
Marcus Wareing is the latest chef to get in on the act. The one time Gordon Ramsay protégé (like most, they don’t speak anymore) and recently signed-up MasterChef judge is behind Tredwell’s, which opened just a couple of weeks ago in the heart of Theatreland — and it couldn’t be further removed from the ferocious formality of Wareing’s two Michelin-starred restaurant Marcus at The Berkeley hotel.
The restaurant gets its name from the butler in Agatha Christie’s locally-set The Seven Dials Mystery, but its inspiration comes from further afield.
Wareing’s antipodean right-hand woman Chantelle Nicholson is at the helm, and together with head chef Andrew Ward and Wareing she has put together a menu of more than 40 snacks and small plates that span many of the world’s continents. As tends to be the case, they arrive tapas-style as and when they’re ready rather than in regimented courses. Depending on what you order and how you feel about such things, this can lead either to a pacey, variety show extravaganza of a dinner or a slightly strange children’s party mix of food on your plate.
Four dishes are recommended per person (assuming you don’t opt for one of the larger or sharing plates) so there’s plenty of opportunity to globe-trot, and you’ll come across some soaring high-points along the way.
A silky-soft chicken liver mousse comes served in a screw-top jar, complete with a sticky layer of bacon jam at its base; it’s cooking of the refined nature you’d expect from Wareing, but with an injection of fun that you might not.
Another dish sees slithers of fennel and whole king prawns battered and deep fried in a take on Italian fritto misto. It’s sloppy — greasy even — but in a way that makes it wonderfully satisfying and addictively moreish rather than anything more negative. It comes with kimchi mayo, which is every bit as racey on the palate as it sounds; it’s a condiment that would enhance the world if it became more widespread.
Onglet steak (which we have rare) is tender, juicy and big enough on beefy flavour to stand up to an earthy mushroom ketchup sauce, while succulent lamb chops have just about the requisite robustness to survive a wallop of tangy mint relish.
On the down-side, lamb belly is soft, juicy and richly flavoured, but comes with a two-dimensional accompaniment of aubergine curry that’s disappointingly timid in its spicing. And a piece of confit cod that’s cooked to moist — almost translucent — perfection is the victim of a lack of subtlety, rudely undermined by an overly-sweet and cloying purée of sweet potato.
The space itself is sleek, and far more subtle than the food, with dark wood panels, white brick walls and deep green banquette seating. Character comes in the form of desk lamps that loom from the walls, vintage radios in place of speakers, and a clock decorated with knives and forks: it feels like a chain ready to roll.
A recent review in the Evening Standard described dinner at Tredwell’s as “a meal to regret having eaten”. We don’t agree at all.
The menu’s big, bolshy flavours generally work well, and at £5 to £7 for most dishes, you’ll be hard pushed to get the same quality for the price elsewhere nearby. Not forgetting its convenience as a place for a few bites with drinks, a late food pit-stop, or a place to meet your mates either side of a theatre show.
We would concede, however, that perhaps the team has gone from one extreme to the other in a bid to differentiate Tredwell’s from the finery of Wareing’s flagship restaurant. The smart money might be on casual dining right now, but that certainly doesn't mean we'll settle for cooking that's scruffy round the edges.
Tredwell’s, 4a Upper St Martin’s Lane, WC2H 9NY.