The thing with Twitter is that you can sometimes forget that people read what you tweet. I’d been to Gail’s Kitchen earlier in the week and had mentioned on Twitter that I had enjoyed it. What I actually said was:
Gail’s Kitchen. I liked it. I loved bits of it. A bit Ottolenghi-ish. But not. Bread #thatismyreview.
And to some degree it was. I wasn’t expecting a response from them, but I got one. They asked me which bits I loved, so I told them. But before I did that, they had written back saying “actually – which bits didn’t you love – so we can make sure you love ‘em next time”.
I told them what it was that I didn’t entirely love and they said they were working on that dish and another one and we all went away happy.
I love that response and I think it demonstrates the care that they are taking with their offering and the personal touch, which makes it stand out from the ordinary and feel like a place where people are actually bothered. And I think their face is indeed bothered and it shows in the food.
If you’ve been to a Gail’s Bakery, then you’ll have some idea of the feel of the place. Gail’s Kitchen is their new restaurant. It will be no surprise to you that bread is a key element in their offering and given my deep and enduring love of carbohydrate, this makes me very happy.
And on top of the excellent bread selection, that comes as you sit down, you can have some more bread-y things as you go along.
The waitress politely suggested that Renaissance Man and I had chosen too much food. She doesn’t know me. I suspect that we could have done justice to our original selection, but no-one, least not me, wants to look greedy – at least not at the beginning and so we stuck with the recommended number of dishes – almost. Renaissance Man did, I am pleased to say, sneak one in at the final moment, for which I was most grateful. I think you could easily demolish 2-3 dishes each. If not more. I know I could.
We started with a wonderful pizza Bianca, topped with violet artichokes, Parma ham and burrata. There was a little bit of liquid – I think out of the artichokes, but I’m not sure - it was a lovely gooey plateful – simple and well cooked. The pizza was puffy, yet crisp on the outside.
The menu is divided into snacks and main courses. The main courses, of 4 to 5 dishes in each section, are fish-based, meat-based and vegetarian. The vegetarian dishes were so interesting that I could have lived without any meat, but we did have an oxtail stew with barley which I really liked, although I think Renaissance Man wasn’t quite as impressed.
He was quite taken with the smoked prawns with aioli, and caramelised garlic bread. This came with a dipping bowl of good mayonnaise. The bread was still warm.
This was a great, gutsy dish with lots of interesting flavours. The smoked prawns were a new one to me and went extremely well with the garlicky sourdough.
We also had crispy cauliflower with a light cheese – it may have been labneh, though I’m not sure – it wasn’t bad but it could have been slightly crispier. As we were both saying, we think cauliflower is still a little neglected at times and deserves more exposure. As a side, I make a very lovely cauliflower cream and butter combo which I then roast. It’s a sort of pretend mashed potato when you’re on a low-carb kick. It works.
I would like to have tried the oven-roasted squash, carrots, braised greens raisins and pine nuts and also the roasted beetroot, lentils, labneh and flatbread. Those dishes really have my name on them. As does the French toast with caramelised apples and maple butter or indeed the San Francisco sourdough with bacon jam and poached eggs. Before you pull a face, bacon jam really works. Trust me.
Slightly less successful was the clementine sorbet. It didn’t have that citrus kick that you want, but it was perfectly serviceable – just not quite as interesting as it might have been. Apparently it’s now being made with blood orange. Sounds good.
What we should have ordered was the cookies and milk (12 min, fresh out of the oven).
And the prices here are reasonable. The plates, which are designed for sharing, range from £6 to £10.50 for the seafood chowder but average around £8. It’s the sort of place I would come with people from my real life and not my work life, or those clients for whom it is not necessary to have a Michelin star attached to any place they visit.
I’m hoping that they will do well. It’s a little oasis in the desert that is that side of Tottenham Court Road, but actually a hop skip and a jump from fabulous Fitzrovia.
It’s a little refuge from hi-fi hell.
How could you resist?