Thursday, 22 December 2011
Medlar - a World's End Gem
Long known as the "grotty end" of the King's Road, the World's End is having somewhat of a revival in the restaurant stakes. Not only has the eponymous pub been featured in a certain E4 "reality" series multiple times, but Osteria Dell'Arancio and local cakery the Chelsea Teapot also delight. Medlar sits on this stretch of the Kings Road approaching Gunter Grove, and if the exterior seems smart but unprepossessing the fanfare that accompanied the first few reviews of the food certainly ensured this Chelsea newbie made a splash - one local blogger declared it his "best meal of 2011". So naturally, as my visit approached, I was feeling pretty excited, particularly due to the heritage of the owners - both of whom have done stints at SW12 power-house Chez Bruce.
As mentioned previously, the exterior is certainly very smart - a slick mid grey facade, with green lettering and a smart verandah out front - but the look is quite discreet. Medlar is a fairly small venue, I'd say around 12 tables, and elegantly decorated within, with lots of low lighting, crisp white tablecloths and a clean wooden finish.
Kicking off the evening with a Campari and Soda (seems to be a tradition these days), I scanned the short but inventive menu eagerly. Helpfully, for those of larger appetites at least, the decision as to number of courses is already taken, and price need not play a part in your menu choices. Besides a few dishes that carry a surcharge, a 3 course meal will set you back £39, whatever you choose. Having heard the crab raviolo much touted as the "must-have" starter (the Guardian review said it was "as good as any starter I'd had all year" - high praise indeed), we made sure to order that, along with a foie gras and hamhock terrine with green bean, dandelion and shallot salad, walnuts and toasted brioche. Although I thought my hopes may have been raised a bit too far by all the praise heaped on the raviolo, it did not disappoint, and was creamy, rich and delicious without being too filling and overwhelming, arriving as it did with samphire, brown shrimp and leeks in a seafood bisque - absolutely divine. I'm not much a terrine and pate girl myself, but the boy assures me that the foie gras and hamhock terrine was a great way to kick off the meal too.
Unoriginally, I'm afraid, we both went for the under blade fillet steak, with bone marrow, salad, triple cooked chips and bearnaise sauce. This was a "proper" steak, as my partner in crime put it, cooked to perfection and also served with a healthy dose of garlic and herb butter, which complemented the steak perfectly although rather made the bearnaise sauce a bit redundant. Still, the sauce was fab, and served separately in an enormous portion. The chips were HUGE and perhaps a little rich for my liking but the exterior was well crisped and the insides soft and fluffy so I can't fault the chef on that either.
Now before I continue, I must iterate that the service at Medlar was charming, seamless and discrete. However, on the night we visited, there was "un petit accident" in the kitchen resulting in a power cut just after our main course! The staff could not have handled it better (we were unable to have coffee, but would we like some complimentary champagne instead? Hell, yes!) and somehow they managed to produce two excellent puddings for us - even if we did rather feel like contestants on dating in the dark! I must admit, when my gigantic crème brulee turned up, I rather wondered if they hadn't picked up the wrong dish in the blackness, but I am assured that this portion size is just par for the course. Not that I was complaining - there were no gimmicks with this simple but perfectly executed brulee, and I was thankful for the extra quantity in my bowl, even if I felt a little sick afterwards. Dessert number two was an creamy yet refreshing AND single-portion sized glazed creme chiboust with caramelized oranges and hazelnut brittle - another success story.
Medlar is smart without being too fancy for it's own good. There is strong attention to detail and interesting yet uncomplex dishes are served to perfection. The prices are pretty darn reasonable and the service excellent if not rather formal. Not one for a boozy, bawdy night but fine quality dining suitable for families, couples and foodie friends.
438 Kings Road
London SW12 0LJ
Bookings on 0207 349 1900
PS excuse the pictures being very dark - some were taken in the power cut!