Ramsay’s Missed A Trick With Heddon Street Kitchen
Londonist Rating: ★★★☆☆
When Gordon Ramsay opened Heddon Street Kitchen just off Regent Street late last year, it brought his total number of London restaurants to 11. It was unfortunate, perhaps, that the bulk of press attention was focused on 100 fake launch-night bookings which left tables empty — but even so it was hard to get a seat there in December.
HSK — as it’s being branded — follows in the footsteps of similarly-named Bread Street Kitchen in the City, and is a more casual, affordable affair than the big-hitting Michelin-starred joints the celebrity chef is best known for. Moments from Piccadilly Circus, it’s also the Ramsay outfit’s most central venture yet — and we reckon it shows.
Walking into the intricately designed space feels a lot like setting foot inside a CGI rendering. It’s pretty, quirky and kind of cool, with shiny pipework clinging to the ceiling, vinyl banquette seating hugging the tables, and lights with mis-matched shades hanging low. Metal pillars segregate the substantial space, while wine racks cosy up with concrete blocks to line its perimeters. But for all its careful crafting and slickery, it’s seriously lacking in soul. Think graffiti by the National Gallery, or a street food stall by M&S.
Unfortunately the menu doesn’t add much passion to proceedings. Scallops with bacon? Check. Beetroot and goat’s cheese? Yep. Burgers, ribs and charcoal-grilled meats? Oh yes indeed.
But let’s not be too cynical. Ramsay may be covering all the bases in the hope of luring in more punters — it’s a large two storey space, and rates in this location will be sky-high — but he can certainly cook. And so can the team here.
For starters, a trio of plump scallops (£12) come with a nutty salsify purée and crispy bites of treacle-glazed smoky bacon. They are seared to the point of being pleasantly crispy-edged, but remain soft and creamy within. A generous portion of six deep-fried rock oysters served in their shells (£13.50) are good for sharing between two; they burst with salty juices on chewing, and come with a garnish of thinly sliced fennel and lemon which cuts through their slight greasiness superbly.
Moving onto mains, a fluffy-fleshed and crispy-skinned roasted fillet of cod (£18.50) is our stand-out dish. It comes in a tangy pool of red wine and lemon sauce, flecked with capers and strips of artichoke heart. The winning touch, though, is a base of soft crushed potatoes — they soak up all the plate’s flavours and create something mushy and comforting a little like bubble and squeak.
Runners-up include a piled-high plate of lamb cutlets (£25) from the grill, boasting moist tender flesh and crispy fat; and a tasty — if very healthy — salad of kale, red cabbage, fennel, carrots and varying seeds, dressed with white balsamic vinegar.
A chocolate fondant (£8) is the go-to dessert. “It really explodes”, our waiter promised with the kind of enthusiasm that would stop him getting through airport security — and he was right. Given the rather classic nature of the menu, we’re not sure if the accompanying mint choc-chip ice-cream is intended to be retro or not, but we like it.
Like is the key word here. There isn’t really anything not to like about HSK — it’s very good cooking in pleasant surroundings, at prices that aren’t at all bad given its location. A short cocktail list delivers the goods, and the wine list won’t break the bank. The problem is that there isn’t much to love either.
Ramsay has notoriously struggled to do well at anything but the higher end of dining — of his three attempts at gastropubs, two have closed and one has been turned into a restaurant — and he seems to be fighting to remain current in London’s fast-evolving restaurant scene. We’d genuinely have loved to see him surprise dissenters with an exciting new concept that takes him out of his comfort zone, but he seems to have missed a trick here.
Perhaps he’s focusing his attention on opening new restaurants in America and Asia, or maybe he’s just saving himself for his second new London restaurant of the year. That one’s due to arrive in Chelsea this summer, and we’re hoping for something a tad more exciting.
Heddon Street Kitchen is at 3-9 Heddon Street, W1B 4BD
Last Updated 06 January 2015