17 Feb 2008

Favours, anyone?

'Ponder well on this point: the pleasant hours of our life are all connected by a more or less tangible link, with some memory of the table...'
[Charles Pierre Monselet, Journalist]

THEY ARE damn good purée-ers at Mews of Mayfair, a swanky, but not outlandish four tier address a few hundred cobbles from Handel’s House Museum and hidden from Oxford Street. Each floor reflects a different temperament… From discreetly glamorous, loosely 1920s basement lounge to humming ground floor cocktail bar (come afternoon tea parlour) festooned with 18th century chandelier and Chesterfields. A stairway with wallpaper similar to nearby Mirabelle leads up to the clean, cream, but not minimalist restaurant, with private dining for two dozen provided in the vaulted loft above. The latter has Empire mapped walls, shaved beams and a soundproofed glazed view into the world of the Antipodean chefs frantically serving all areas.

Within the restaurant, however, matters initially feel a little wedding breakfast, especially when the poised Pommery NV arrives. A magnificent clock petrified at ten to eleven gazes out at a room drenched in ivory white. Bleached leather seating is ergonomically perfect. Hand-applied subdued butterflies flutter upon silk embroidered walls. Eggshell window-frames channel brightening sun, refracted off a line-up of silver tipped white teapots. However attentive, conversational, black-shirted - in one case macho - waiters surmounts the feminine status quo…
The warm, firm breads brought with sweetened, beaten, salt crystal sprinkled Normandy butter heralded good things ahead. I enjoyed lathered lobster bisque (puréed crustaceans) then flavoursome corn fed chicken (as opposed to fowl raised on fishmeal or soya) heightened by puréed cauliflower with girolles. Chefs find chicken boring, according to Anthony Bourdain in his extraordinarily adrenal book ‘Kitchen Confidential’. I find it boring too, although this tender version had integrity. My dessert: swathes of puréed strawberries with balsamic treacle, chocolate basil and crunchy ice cream. An ’05 straight Bourgogne Pinot Noir from Domaine Joseph Faiveley felt a little stretched: dilute, hard, bitter and ungracious.
Traps include roast sage scented side, Charlotte Potatoes, feverishly priced at £4.50 and ‘bio bottle’ Belu mineral water (£5), albeit served in really comfortable glasses with subtly rounded bases.This is a venue where detailed attention has been given to all aspects including the bijou loos with gold wallpaper, wave sensors (!) and smartly polished antique-looking fittings.
Mews of Mayfair - 10-11 Lancashire Court, London. W1S 1EYT.
T. 020 7518 9388
On the subject of mineral water recently touched on by Decanter, I cannot bring myself to request tap, even though chilled Château Thames can be far more refreshing than limp Hildon. The same sense of shame as queue-jumping prevents me. Why?
After Mews, I watched 'Between The Diving Bell and The Butterfly', having read the book years ago in, of all places, a dark, echoing youth hostel in Prague. The deeply penetrating sadness is interrupted momentarily by an imaginary food orgy of epic proportions...

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