I have only heard positive things about Antidote; despite my curiosity killing me, I was subconsciously saving it for Shan’s return from his adventures in South America. Moreover Mister doesn’t drink, so it wouldn’t do justice to a wine-focused restaurant.
When I arrived at the restaurant on the side street of Carnaby Street, I vaguely remembered having been here before with Owen over a year ago, for more wine after a session at Vinoteca on a very hazy evening. Ah well, Antidote have changed hands since and it is now commissioned by Mikael Jonsson of the Michelin-starred Hedone. We were seated upstairs; very simple decor of wooden floor and small wobbly tables and matching wobbly chairs. Like most upstairs restaurants in the area, loud acoustic and limited ventilation - but good enough for a casual dinner.
People talk extensively about the bread here because it’s from Hedone. I haven’t been myself, but after reading LondonEater’s review on it, I’m not sure if I am prepared to venture that far for pretentiousness. I didn’t fall head over heels for the bread here; yeah it was good but not good enough to be a highlight.
Amuse bouche of buttermilk with pickled cucumber and sorbet
Suckling Pig, black pudding, & New season English Apple
The small disc of suckling pig, hidden beneath the slices of apple, was ridiculously tender. The leaner meat was enveloped by a melty rind of lard, which literally dissolved into a mouthful of nutty fragrance. The sucking pig muscles effortlessly disintegrated and mingled with the grease, blissfully indulgent and ludicrously delicious. The apple helped to clean up the weightiness from the rich oils, leaving my palate clean and wanting more.
Pan fried Cornish Mackerel, black radish & kaffir lime
Shan’s mackerel was also cooked with precision; the skin was wafer thin and brittle while fish retained every drop of succulence, slithery in texture and rich with fishy oils. For me, it didn’t have as much impact as the suckling pig, because I like mackerel so much that I’d like it be it steamed, fried, pickled, smoked, cured or raw. That said it was a beautifully prepared dish.
Roasted Scottish Grouse, smoked barley, sloe berry & kohlrabi
I love grouse – possibly my favourite meat when they are in season. And this, I declare, is the best grouse I have ever had.
I prefer my meats as rare as one dares, so much so that I think Mister is starting to doubt my humanity. The expression on his face and the way he winced as I devoured my plate of steak tartare in Paris was... interesting. Basically if it can be eaten raw or is safe to be eaten undercooked, like fish and good red meat, I’d rather have it that way. Anyhow, I digress.
The bird arrived ruby red without the skin, the flesh gleaming with succulence and rareness. The muscles were beautifully tender and remarkably gamey in flavour; the metallic blood-y taste was surprisingly subdued as the powerful game came through. The smoky barley complimented the potent flavours well, all reined in by the jammy berry sauce. So perfect.
Herefordshire Ox Cheek, Catriona Potato & Mushroom Beignet
Shan originally wanted the roast partridge but they ran out, so settled for ox cheek instead. I was pleasantly surprised by the ox cheek. Not the typical ball of shredded soft, slow-cooked beef, but it almost resembled a steak, a very tender and delicate steak that had texture and structure to the meat, it encouraged a tiny bit of chewing and biting to release the meat juice it held. It still had plenty of bovine flavours in the muscle, not just relying on the jus it was served with. Despite my appreciation for slow-cooked meats, I think this was the most delicious ox cheek I have tasted. It says a lot about the skill level of the kitchen.
Peanut Sponge, 70% chocolate, Damson & Toasted Hay Ice Cream
I thought the food was exceptional at Antidote – no doubt one of my culinary highlights of the year. The kitchen showed off their masterly skills without trying too hard, just the winning combination of precise execution, balanced recipes, and quality ingredients. Stunning food, gorgeous wine and incredible company – Shan, welcome back.
12A Newburgh Street
Tel: 0207 287 8488