Sometimes people really know what they're doing. For instance my friend Archie did when he recently got married. The guys who've opened Texture, a new restaurant on Portland Street, definitely know what they're doing too. I'd arranged to meet Archie there for lunch last Saturday and it was immediately apparent from the moment I walked in that this was extremely smooth operation. There was none of that 'soft opening' where discounts partially inure you to sometimes appalling service and work-in-progress food. This restaurant has been delivered to us in fully working order without us point out imperfections that may need later smoothing out.
Texture has its roots a Le Manoir Quat' Saisons and many of the staff are ex- of there. The food is nothing like Monsieur Blanc's though, with a more modern and urban countenance. Decoratively the restaurant has sleekly made over a Georgian room and is light and airy. For lunch we were briefly tempted by the £8.50 per dish menu. The idea here, rather like at Foliage, is that you can choose from a wide selection of equally -sized dishes. In the end though, we went for their omnivorous tasting menu (as opposed to alternative fish menu they offer). The wine list is hefty but inviting, the sommelier having had success in Ruinart Sommelier of the Year competitions.
With our aperitifs, were some crispy things, though by no means potato-based. At Noma, in June, I saw crispy fish skin served with drinks - this appeared here too. Once at the table, an amuse bouche appeared. This was a small tumbler of a light, sharp salad, with celery and apple, topped with an ethereally light foam. The clear, fresh flavours here set a pattern for the rest of the meal.
This combination of pickled, roasted and raw jerusalem artichoke was given depth by the presence of pan-fried ceps. This was accompanied by artichoke 'tea' poured, at the table, into test tubes, in a test tube rack from a tea pot. Think of artichoke, think of tea . . . that's exactly what it was like. There was certainly a textural difference between the varying 'chokes, but this wasn't any more prominent that the difference in flavours. I liked this dish - using Autumnal ingredients but seeming summery - and Indian Summer of a dish.
I've always been suspicious of sweetcorn as ingredient in fine dining, despite having had a superb Rowley Leigh sweetcorn pancake with foie gras a few years back. Here it was chargrilled and served as an accompaniment to Anjou pigeon. Also here, amongst the foliage, is 'bacon popcorn' and red wine essence. How did they make the piggy popcorn? 'Bacon powder, sir'. Of course. The pigeon here was the real star, tender and just firm enough. I am prepared to overlook my sweetcorn vendetta and accede that this was a highly successful dish.
This was another piece of careful cooking. The flakes of cod atop the brandade were incredibly delicate. The enormous smear is tapenade but that mainly proved resistant to attempts to smear it onto my fork. The crispy slivers of bread provided textural contrast here.
Slow cooked pork, paired with oriental flavours, is something I've seen in many restaurants recently. It's not hard to acknowledge that these flavours work very well together. The suckling pig had probably been cooked for longer than it had suckled . . . it was incredibly soft. This was served in several small pieces with a lovely piece of squid on top of one of them. Baby cabbage was deliciously flavoursome provoking admiring comments from Archie. The crispy item here was some lighter than light crackling . . . a texture demonstration was not really the point of this dish though.
Next came a pre-dessert, for me, a highlight of the meal. White chocolate mousse, olive oil sorbet and crispy seaweed. Now the sorbet seemed to be quite citrus, rather like a lemon sorbet with added olive oil. Whatever, it was absolutely delicious and just unexpected enough.
At this point, Archie's delightful wife, Charlotte, turned up. As if they'd been practising for this very eventuality for years, the restaurant smoothly delivered wine, set up another place and, unprompted, brought the final dessert course for her. We were impressed. This dessert was lemongrass and ginger soup, again poured at the table, over a mix of 'exotic' fruits and mango and passion fruit sorbet.
This restaurant exhibits a very light cooking style. There is almost no use of dairy or animal fats, high quality ingredients are shown confidently, never smothered by accompaniments. Fresh and vibrant, there is definitely an 'acidulee' slant to this, but no bad thing. Straight into the London top ten I'd say . . .
The tasting menu was £59 with £45 buying you their least expensive matching wines by the glass.
Texture, 34 Portman Square, W1 020 7224 0028