Food Blog | Cooking Blog
West London residents have been remarking on the appearance of Eelbrook for the very few months that it has been open. The sleek, glass and white wood paneled restaurant brings glamour to the previously dreary and desolate Eel Brook Common, more closely resembling the sort of thing you might expect to find in the South of France than SW6. The spacious conservatory is filled with light, the décor is minimalist and chic, there is seating on a heated terrace that facilitates all year round al fresco dining, and the location is prime. The only question on everybody’s lips – is the food any good? The plus one and I went for a three-courser on a Tuesday evening last week to decide for ourselves. Our answer is a resounding yes. From the quality of the food and its unique and innovative preparation to the affordability of the menu, Eelbrook offers you the ideal resolution to your weekday frustration at finding a new local feeding pond that is informal, relaxed and a reliable source of something delicious.
The breakfast, lunch and dinner menu at Eelbrook is constantly changing in line with what ingredients are seasonal. It may change twice in one day or it may remain the same for a week; you cannot guarantee to get what you may read up about or see on the online sample menu, but you can rest assured that there will be breadth and variety as the chefs (previously, the masterminds behind Duck Soup and Mark Hix) compose an eclectic mix of British and Mediterranean influenced dishes using fresh, high quality ingredients. Within moments of paroozing about the a la carte menu, our waitress brought over a bottle of a delicious red Burgundy and asked if we wanted to try a selection of appetizers whilst choosing what to eat. The sort of place that offers sharing nibbles that aren't bread or olives and gets your wine glass filled within minutes of sitting down? So far, so good...
We shared two appetizers recommended by our waitress – Cuttlefish & Saffron Croquettes with Squid Ink Aioli and Crab Gourgeres with Brown Crab Sauce. Both were fantastic – sophisticated, refined and adorably bitesized, combining flavours in experimental ways that really worked. Encased in a golden breadcrumb crust, the croquettes bound fresh tasting shreds of cuttlefish (similar to squid but richer in flavor – an under-appreciated member of the cephalopod family in my opinion) together with saffron infused mash. The delicate taste of the cuttlefish married brilliantly with the citrusy tang of the saffron, and when dipped into the thick and buttery squid ink aioli – the combination of flavours was amazing. The plus one and I ignored eachothers ink stained smiles whilst polishing off the remains of the flavour rich aioli using our bread (classy as ever). The cougeres provided a contrast, as they were much heavier than the croquettes. Like little profiteroles, the salty white crab was caked in bundles of choux pastry that had been lightly seasoned and drizzled with a brown crab reduction to bring out the natural flavours. Both delicious, presenting familiar ingredients in new ways. Hats off to the creative responsible in the kitchen!
To start, we ordered a plate of Finocchiona (Tuscan pork and wild fennel salami) and Fois Gras & Chicken Liver Parfait, which was served with homemade fig membrillo and freshly baked walnut bread. The salami was cut in to medium-thick slices, which enabled you to really notice the flavour of the fennel and the spice of the black pepper in each piece. It was soft, tasting very much like it had been sliced just moments before serving, and the sophistication of the flavours made it noticeably more interesting than anything you can get at the butcher. The real winner, however, was the pate. Smooth, creamy and incredibly rich, it was so moreish that the plus one and I actually had to divvy it up so as to avoid a - potentially very embarrassing - cutlery battle. There were hints of apple, port and truffle throughout and subtle aromas of pepper and thyme that made it multilayered and perplexing to the palette. The hunks of walnut bread were warm, light and sufficiently bland so as not to overpower or even disrupt any of the flavours of the pate. What did contribute in terms of taste was the membrillo, which was sweet and figalicious, giving the perfect sugary antedote to the peppery richness of the pate. A truly indulgent and generously portioned dish.
For my main course, I ordered a Rib cut of Belted Galloway Beef with Salsa Verde, accompanied by Cavalo Nero, Black Garlic and Chilli. The steak was served warm and medium-rare in two relatively thick slices. The beef was juicy and tender, aged so that the filaments were easily separable and the flesh was not tough to the knife. It soaked up the buttery salsa verde, which comprised finely cut flakes of parsley, basil and coriander, giving the dish a distinctly Italian sophistication of flavour. The cavalo nero (a member of the brassica family, along with kale) is a sort of loose leafed cabbage whose leaves are so dark in colour they are almost black. The leaves were soft but not wilted and the stems retained a firm and crunchy texture, and the flavour was not at all unlike regular shop bought kale. What gave the side dish its oomph were the caramelized slices of black garlic cloves and the dry chilli flakes: something that is probably quite boring (sorry to all of the kale-krazed dieters out there that swear by the deliciousness of the vegetable, but I do find it a little limp and lifeless) turned strong, spicy and sweet. Interesting and delish.
The plus one went for Elwy Valley Lamb Cushion served with Delicia Pumpkin Puree, Pine Nuts and Black Olives. The lamb was sliced into thick medallions and topped with bashed up toasted pine nuts. The sweetness from the pumpkin was cut by the rich saltiness of the black olives - a surprising combination that succeeded in bringing out the flavours of the lamb. Think about mint sauce vs. mint jelly: one is savoury, one is sweet. The accoutrements were not those that I would ever have thought to match with lamb cutlets, but the flavour - not to mention the vibrant colour - combination worked really well. The plus one loved his lamb, but what he repeatedly remarked upon throughout our main course was his Garlic and Rosemary Roast Potatoes with Garlic Aioli. Following the squid ink beginning to the meal, we had no doubts that the aioli in this course would be brilliant, and we were not wrong. Soft and silky, the potent mayonnaise married the crispy, well seasoned potatoes perfectly. We also shared a winter slaw, which was colourful, crunchy and - surprisingly - free of mayonnaise. Whilst it was flavourful, the slaw paled in comparison with the potatoes and was a little too fruity for our liking (a lot of shredded green apple). Perhaps it is better suited to accompany a healthier, more refreshing dish such as a fish or salad, than a roast lamb, which warrants a bit of indulgence.
At this stage in our meal, our glasses were dry and our tummies were full. As usual, we were convinced to order desert once we had been told about what was on the menu. Our waitress insisted that we try the Warm Chocolate Fondant, Salted Caramel and Buttermilk Ice Cream, and we did not object. As the fondant takes a usual 15 minutes to prepare, she brought us a taster of the ice creams that had been made fresh that day: arborio rice, purple grape and hazelnut. Hazelnut was delicious, as any Nutella lover such as myself would automatically assume, and the grape was refreshing, sweet and fresh - the former a thick and creamy ice cream and the latter a dairy-less sorbet. What we were most surprised by was the arborio rice, that is, the rice that you use to make risotto or rice pudding. The ice cream was thick and notably more grainy than the hazelnut, with tiny shreds of rice actually visible in each spoonful. The flavour, though, was delicious. I often avoid rice pudding because the consistency puts me off (the whole baby food thing isn't really how I roll), but this gave the rich and rounded flavour of rice pudding, without the heavy warmth and stickiness. Really interesting, but unfortunately not a guaranteed feature of the menu, as of course, the chef makes different flavours of ice cream each day. Once we were done with this, our fondant arrived. Now, when I say words cannot describe it, I really am not exaggerating. The outside was rich in the flavour of dark chocolate, bouncy in consistency but just firm enough to retain structure. The inside was filled with an oozing bitter chocolate sauce and a burst of silky salted caramel at the pudding's centre. The bitter chocolate, the sweet and salty caramel, the cake, the sauce, the buttermilk ice cream, the digestive biscuit crumbs, the shards of burnt salted caramel, the icing sugar dusting... I just don't want to talk about it because it makes me want to quit my job and go straight back. Just go. If you have 20 minutes and you are going past, just go, and have that chocolate fondant. A brilliant meal in an informal restaurant with friendly staff and gorgeous food. Try it!