Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Michael Nadra Primrose Hill

I worry a bit when chefs have more than one restaurant. I have been in business too many years to know that you can't be in two places at the same time. Also its impossible to clone oneself  (yet). So whoever is running your business in your absence needs to be hand picked for the job. Indeed your whole team need to be. Witness Gordon Ramsay's crumbling empire.

The original Michael Nadra restaurant in Chiswick is the fully operational  other half of this enterprise and indeed that has been on my to visit list for some while, as I had heard some good reports about the cooking. Still I never got around to it. Then lo and behold Nadra goes and opens a much larger 130 seat restaurant in monied Primrose Hill. To cap it all they get not one but two national newspaper reviews within weeks. That was it. We just had to give it a whirl.

Primrose Hill is a very des res. Lots of famous and I guess a number of infamous people have and still do live here. I won't name names just google it. We hardly know the area at all having only been here the once. That was a restaurant visit to TV chef Bryn Williams place.
Michael Nadra's restaurant is well out of the central commercial shopping area in a very quiet residential part of town. It sits canal side, but forget any dreamy countryside views, this is water and concrete and of course the odd narrow boat or two. However having said that we were about to find out it was well worth searching for.

Once you find your way through the door you are greeted by enthusiastic staff and a shiny bright Martini bar. Then to the right of that is a light filled conservatory. Two further interconnecting rooms complete the space. One of them being a rather atmospheric Grade two listed vaulted horse tunnel in stunning original condition.

Various menus are on offer. Prix Fixe, carte, brunch, and two tasting menus, a four course game , and a six course standard. Nothing on the prix fixe appealed so we chose the game menu and dishes from the carte.

Bread was more than decent and replenished throughout the meal.  A good choice too, from black olive, rosemary, white and brown. Our favourite was the rosemary, with its brittle, salty, explode in the mouth crust.

We were offered a little amuse of deep fried whitebait whilst the chef cooked our meal for us. The chef in question by the way was Michael Nadra himself. Which quite surprised me. Don't ask me why but it just did.

From the game tasting menu first, was my starter course of Partridge, foie gras and Cep terrine. Fairly standard starter really. Chunky flavoursome meaty bits served with a pickled carrot and pea shoot salad and whole grain mustard dressing.

The other starter, this time from the carte were Black tiger prawn, scallop and chive dumplings. (£9) The vivid green pond was a spinach and broccoli veloute

This was pleasant enough. The dumplings were light in texture allowing the scallop and prawn mixture to shine through

We shared the Roasted Grouse with wild mushrooms from the four course game menu. Only my second grouse from the too short season. This ate rather well indeed. Perfectly cooked and not too gamey. Served classically with bread sauce, fondant potato and a tasty jus. The leg was served separately on a bed of baby watercress and it was surprisingly tender.

From the carte we chose Grilled Iberico Presa and roasted suckling pork belly (£20) We thought that this sounded devine on the menu, a real porky treat.
We have eaten presa before on a couple of occasions and both times they have been served rare which is ( I am informed) how they serve it in Spain. This version was perhaps to most peoples taste as it was more medium rare than rare. Plenty of quality meat on offer. Good texture from the green beans, and the roasted Jerusalem artichokes were gorgeous.

The other main course, this time from the game menu was Windsor sika venison saddle, shank and sausage roll.

Again perfectly cooked meat, and plenty of it. This was perched on top of some tangy, bitter cavolo nero and to the side was the crumbly sausage roll and a slice of crunchy richly flavoured, buttery, root vegetable rosti.

I have to say that all of the dishes were a decent size. No skimpy portions here. We love that from a kitchen, chefs who don't short change you  on the plate.

Two desserts were a step too far, but the staff were not up selling, perhaps identifying the fact that portions were generous and also that on the game menu the dessert section was listed as Selection of Desserts. Indeed it was.

So we have, Treacle tart with clotted cream. Baked black fig with thyme honey. Chocolate fondant. A mini Pavlova and a scoop of Gooseberry sorbet. All classics of course and a fitting end to the meal.

There is nothing effeminate about this cooking. Its big bold and butch. There is a swagger about it that demands attention. Its clear from his menus that Nadra prefers now to cook meat and game as opposed to fish. His original restaurant, Fish Hook specialised in guess what?
There is nothing wrong with man sized portions either. This may well be North London but the portions are most certainly North Yorkshire. Its all very classical cooking, no fancy dan flourishes for the sake of it.

Michael Nadra can certainly cook and has a very impressive cv dating back years. Think Ramsay. Wareing, Demetre, Bruce Poole at Chez Bruce and he was head chef at Oliver Peyton's hip Atlantic Bar and Grill back in 2003 so he's been around a bit.

Pricing is keen and designed to keep the locals returning as a neighbourhood restaurant rather than a special occasion place. Importantly service was friendly and enthusiastic but not too intrusive. Our bill for the four course tasting menu (£40) one main course, and one starter plus an exceptionally good bottle of bargain priced Malbec and 12.5% service charge just nudged over £100. This,  I was more than happy to pay.

Go seek it out

 Michael Nadra Primrose Hill on Urbanspoon Square Meal

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