DonQui puts Gordon Ramsay to the test

DonQui is rather pleased to hear that Gordon Ramsay has recently opened a new hostelry in his old stomping ground of Battersea.

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London House opened last year in Battersea Square. With Duchess joining him in London for a few days, DonQui thinks that they should try it out.

Various reviewers have complained that the decor is naff “a bit like Travelodge gone to heaven,” proclaims the Evening Standard, while Time Out says it is like “a trip back to the ’90s.”

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Well, DonQui quite enjoyed the 90s. He appreciates the way the restaurant is laid out with comfy, distressed leather sofas at one end of the room for relaxing with a drink before or after dinner — or both. The decor may be a little fin de siècle but DonQui likes the spacious, open feel and the refined yet casual atmosphere.

The youngish, well-dressed staff are friendly, knowledgeable and the service is faultless. When DonQui does not need them they are nowhere to be seen. Then when he does want something they seem to magically appear just at the right moment.

So what about the food?

Utterly superb.

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As is the wine – after a pinot noir and a grey goose vodka cocktail as aperitifs DonQui orders a very tasty Chinon.

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DonQui finds the light reds from the Loire, such as Chinon and Bourgueil, are the perfect accompaniment to a meal with a mix of dishes. In his view they go equally well with rich red meat as well as lighter foods. He wonders why they are not that well known outside France.

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To start DonQui has wild mushroom scotch egg. The egg (probably a quail’s given the size) has a perfectly runny yolk and solid white — just as it should be. The outside is crispy and full of gorgeous mushroom flavour. It is served on a bed of finely shredded pickled Japanese artichoke, a root vegetable that DonQui has not encountered before. It reminds him slightly of sauerkraut but with a more delicate taste and it goes very well with the scotch egg.

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Duchess has goat’s cheese curds with honey which is served with a bundle of thin homemade grissini. The waiter warns that it is just a small nibble but it is what Duchess wants. She is after something that has flavour without being too filling and it does the job very nicely indeed.

Then there is the bread. The most gorgeous crusty sourdough — so good that it is devoured before DonQui can think of taking any photographs. The waiter asks if he would like more and although he does, he thinks it best to pass as otherwise he will have no room for anything else.

The two main courses are wild fallow deer with a nutty herb crust served on a bed of pearl barley with caramelised swede and curly kale; and chicken breast with sweet potatoes and polenta.

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Readers will probably guess that DonQui goes for the venison. It is tender, juicy and rich without being gamey.

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The look on Duchess’s face tells him that he should try her chicken breast. Now chicken breast is not something DonQui normally would go for as he prefers his meat dark and juicy. However this is without a doubt the best chicken breast he has ever tasted. With crispy skin it is moist and full of flavour that DonQui would not normally expect to find in a relatively simply cooked piece of chicken.

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Feeling slightly greedy extra polenta sticks and savoy cabbage are ordered to go along side. The savoy cabbage does not quite live up to DonQui’s expectations. Poached in milk with bits of bacon the taste is fine, however the two big lumps of cabbage cut in half do not really appeal to his senses.

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For desert DonQui has passion fruit posset which is delectable. Duchess goes for the chocolate eclair which is a disappointment. The pastry is rock hard. The waiter is most apologetic and produces two glasses of the most glorious Muscat in compensation which more than makes up for it.

Mistakes can happen but if they are dealt with graciously then everyone remains happy.

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After a little espresso and a fine calvados to finish off DonQui is feeling very happy indeed. This is dining as it should be, he thinks — unstuffy, cheerful and thoroughly enjoyable.

DonQui and Duchess opted to go a la carte which was not cheap, but neither was it outrageously expensive by London standards. However one does not have to spend a fortune to dine at London House. There is an excellent set menu offering two courses for £22.50 or three for £28.00. Given the quality of the food and ambiance of the restaurant this is very good value indeed.

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