One of the very few things I remember from my schoolgirl education is the rotation of crops in medieval times. The idea of fields lying fallow — resting, mulching, replenishing — seized my idle mind. A restaurant venture called Fallow, involving chefs Jack Croft and Will Murray, was already in my good books before I visited for the first time — then again, then again.
I am so thrilled to be back in a land of conviviality and creativity that I want to share it with different friends. Croft and Murray met in the veg section of Dinner by Heston. They had already done a short residency at Carousel and at Crispin in Spitalfields before their four-month stint at 10 Heddon Street — an incubator of restaurant businesses — was interrupted at the start by lockdown. Now they are back in the open kitchen making good their commitment to sustainability of produce, the capability of plants to charm and the power of an enlightened drinks list. In all this they are helped by entrepreneur James Robson, founder of Mews of Mayfair.
Items that exemplify their approach include grilled ribs of sweetcorn dusted with their own-brand kombu seasoning — the seaweed powder bolstered with paprika, cayenne and coriander, which on my third visit I am given in what my children used to call a take-home prize from a party — and smoked beef dandy (back) ribs, the meat falling off but still clinging affectionately to the bones.
Cod’s heads might be tossed in a bin or make it into fish stock but how much more glorious grilled and served with sriracha butter sauce, its neon vibrancy penetrating every nook and cranny from which can be winkled pearly pieces of fish. English pea, hen of the woods (mushroom) and goats’ curd, and cauliflower, walnut, onion and parmesan, are two fine vegetarian assemblies — but the sort of technique and finesse you would absorb working in a Blumenthal kitchen is apparent in mushroom parfait with shiitake and truffle. “It’s outrageous,” suggests our waiter. “A firm candidate for dish of the year,” says my chum afterwards, who confesses he would never otherwise have ordered it.
Careful attention has gone into every detail of middle white pork, crown prince squash and chard — one of the butcher main courses — but on that subject we could have shared dairy cow wing rib for two. Kombu fries are the obvious accompaniment.
I am expecting lemon peel pudding to resemble Jane Grigson’s recipe for Sussex pond pudding featuring suet crust, which is arguably unfair, but out of the two desserts on offer I’d advise Pump Street Chocolate soft-serve sprinkled with handfuls of crunch. I would also urge you to order Clos 93’s ‘L’interrogant’ Priorat, if it is a fine bottle of red you are after. Oh, and please note, all the paper for menus is made from harvested algae.
Fay’s Favourites – Plant power
A sustainable community market in Elephant & Castle with tempting street food.
42 Newington Causeway, SE1. mercatometropolitano.com
Skye Gyngell’s early evening Scratch Menu uses tops and tails and produce visually unlovely through no fault of its own.
Somerset House, WC2. springrestaurant.co.uk
Duke of Cambridge
London’s first organic gastropub – since 1998 – is fully certified by The Soil Association.
30 St Peter’s Street, N1. dukeorganic.co.uk