Sunday, 19 December 2010

Odette’s – Swan Queen at Primrose Hill

It was a candlelight diner occasion. Excuse the dark photos.

Chef Bryn Williams’ roasted turbot was fit for the Queen’s 80th birthday a few years back, I was equally enthralled during my first visit. So I suggested re-visiting at this gloomy time of the year, when the Christmas holidays seems so near yet so far.

Quirky British should summarise the décor. The main dining area was quite compact, through which, half a flight of stairs led to a private dining area, with a door opening to the garden. The downstairs bar was more toned down for a cosy ambience.

The maître’d, equipped with the heart-warming British humour, took our coats, showed us to our table and explained the menus.

Munching on the warm mustard seed rolls, we decided on the 7-course Tasting Menu with a bottle of Chianti 2007.

Amuse Bouche – Beetroot foam with Horseradish crème fraiche
I am not a fan of foam, despite its emphasis during the molecular gastronomy hype. While the texture is easy on the mouth, the excessive air upsets my stomach. The beetroot foam is naturally sweet, not too fluffy and the spiky horseradish gave it a good punch.

Roasted woodpigeon, foie gras, pickled cherries, chocolate, vanilla salt
Vibrant in presentation and balanced in texture. The woodpigeon was bloody-red in the centre, and the thin sheet of bitter chocolate sauce and sweet cherry brought out the distinctive flavours of game. Foie gras was cold to preserve its silkiness, which contrasted with the more chewy pigeon.

Hand dived scallop, pork belly & apricot
The scallop was sweet and fleshy, slightly undercooked in the middle, just the way I like it. Apricot and pork belly was a safe match, as it alleviated the oily pork belly.

Roasted turbot, braised oxtail, cockles & samphire
The fish though crispy on the outside, was not as flaky as I had hoped for. I don’t think the dish has lost its magic, I just couldn’t feel the fireworks this time. Maybe I was looking for more layers and complexity?
Loin of welsh venison, beetroot, chestnut

This stole the show. Juicy slices of tender venison with a chunk of beetroot. A simple palette of flavours flawlessly executed.
Whipped goat's cheese, beetroot, Regent's Park honey, pine nuts
It’s the third item with beetroot. Frankly I was a little tired of it. The honeycomb gave the dish substance, and blended beautifully with the feathery goat cheese.

Lemon curd arctic roll, fig, pistachio
It did feel as though Chef Bryn had lost his steam in the desserts. I found this, dare I say, sickening. It was lumps and lumps of syrup. Sorry.

Chestnut cake, confit chestnut, cranberry sorbet
When the gentlemen next door asked for our views on the desserts, since they went a la carte, I shook my head. Chestnut cake was more like stale chocolate sponge cake, sprinkled with dried berries and four bits of broken chestnuts. I couldn’t help frowning when the server recommended it to his table. He went for apple crumble instead.

Notwithstanding the dessert disaster, it was a beautiful meal. A selection of the chef’s favourite dish for £60 (£85 with matching wines) was a bargain. Each course was gracious, creative and complacent. It was a showcase exhibition of the chef’s talent. I don’t see Odette’s earning any Michelin recognition, its washrooms are shabby and doesn’t have nicely stacked handkerchiefs in alternating colours. But guess what, I have already booked my next visit.

130 Regents Park Road
Primrose Hill
Tel: 020 7586 8569
Odette's on Urbanspoon

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