London may be my favorite walking city in the world. Every morning Joanne and I start out from our hotel in Mayfair and head off in a new direction.
Sometimes it’s through HYDE PARK and on to NOTTING HILL (with fish and chips at GEALES as our reward), or to SHOREDITCH and SPITALFIELDS, a two hour walk. Knightsbridge and Kensington? Yes, frequently. COVENT GARDEN ????? Not so much.
One of my favorite strolls will take you through Knightsbridge and down SLOANE ST to SLOANE SQUARE. Take a right and you are on Kings Road in Chelsea.
One time, forty minutes or so into our walk, we came upon a little restaurant called MEDLAR. I’d never heard of it, but it looked charming, so we took a chance and settled in for what turned out to be a delightful lunch (more about that in a minute).
I have subsequently learned that a medlar is a fruit – reportedly the best one you’ve never heard of. It’s popular in Iran and Turkey, rosy red, an inch or two in diameter, and – when eaten almost rotten – reminiscent of darn good apple butter.
A second discovery: The London critics love this place. “I can’t think of a gentler, more understated and confident opening in years,” wrote Giles Coran in THE TIMES.
“Ridiculously good, indeed,” said Matthew Norman of the DAILY TELEGRAPH.
“As good as it gets,” enthused THE OBSERVER’s Jay Rayner.
Rated 25 by ZAGAT, and named “Restaurant of the Year” for 2014 by Britain’s AA Hospitality Awards.
Now you can understand why Joanne and I were so blown away by our 2-1/2 hour lunch at Medlar. And no wonder…the restaurant is the creation of two CHEZ BRUCE alumni.
Our first visit started with an appetizer of Tuna Tartare served up with Tempura Beignets and Artichoke Purée. We also got the Salmon Tartare, which came with a gorgeous fresh edible flower. Subsequent visits have started with burrata, arugula, marinated red peppers, “wet garlic” (whatever that is) and an anchovy beignet, along with a warm artichoke salad topped with a perfectly runny poached egg.
Over the years, we’ve tried and enjoyed a lot of stuff there, including a poached duck egg tart with a rich and ever-so-slightly-sweet red wine sauce; braised duck hearts and bacon; and pan-roasted cod with girolle mushrooms, artichokes, fava beans and roasted garlic. Joanne loved the scallops and crispy pancetta with artichoke purée.
Medlar also does a couple of variations of something called “Coqulets” with corn fed baby chicken. One features romaine lettuce, gnocchi and shallot purée. The other features red peppers, spring peas and ricotta gnocchi. Both are good.
My two favorites, however, fall in the “snout-to-tail” category. One combines ox heart with onion confit, Pommes Anna and white asparagus. The other features braised ox cheeks with veal sweetbreads, lardon, turnip purée and tortilla chips. Once in the fall, I thoroughly enjoyed boudin blanc, a braised sausage of grain-fed chicken and partridge with bacon, morel mushrooms, ricotta gnocchi, all atop a carrot purée. Medlar also features a Steak Frites like you’d expect to find in Paris, except that it also incorporates snails, the cut of meat is an “underblade,” and the fries are triple-fried (not double-fried, thank God).
Desserts are not to miss – including a gooey tarte tatin, prune and Armagnac ice cream, and a cheese board that will knock your socks off. My favorite dessert, though, is the Deep Fried Pear Beignets (can a beignet by anything but deep-fried?) with a rich chocolate dipping sauce. Accompanying our coffee: chocolate truffles and nougat cubes.
Medlar offers a prix fixe lunch for about 39 pounds and a fixed price dinner at 49 pounds. Add wine, as we did, and you’ll pay an additional 10 pounds or so per person.
Oddly, the place was not packed on our most recent vision – maybe 7 or 8 tables were occupied. That was to our advantage, though; the staff lavished us with attention and made us feel like regulars.
If you’re in London, you need to try this place. I’ve never steered you wrong.