Sunday, 29 June 2014

Antidote - London

Antidote caught my interest in March / April after a lot of very positive reviews and given it's central location (on a side street off Carnaby St) it seemed like an ideal lunch spot during a day trip to London. Carnaby St and Liberty are a great part of London to spend time in anyway, the streets lined with everything from high end boutiques to quirky little one offs but the  majority of places have a strong identity of their own to stand out from the rest. I have to admit setting eyes on Antidote almost immediately put me off the place - The logo is the sort of generic MS Word 95 clip art nonsense that I could knock up myself in 5 minutes and would absolutely make you think twice before heading in. Given the given the competition in London it must be responsible for so many walk people just walking on.  
The impressive blurb on the website states that "[The] kitchen is under the guidance of Mikael Jonsson, Chef/owner of Michelin starred restaurant 'Hedone'". I often wonder what 'under the guidance' actually means in these situations but am aware and appreciate that some of the top chefs have restaurants worldwide that they have to supervise. I'm a big fan of cinema and it always concerns me when a film is 'Presented by' or like that terrible Mama film that had Guillelmo del Toro's name splashed all over it only to have had an 'Executive Producer' roll - It was terrible as a result. Fortunately (bare with me), this meal was absolutely not terrible and the chef Chris Johns will be doing nothing but good things if he continues to produce food of the high standard that awaited me here. 

Aside from the logo, the restaurant itself was a delightful space - a fairly traditional looking dining room with clean, white table clothes, but with large open windows overlooking the back street of Carnaby street and the restaurants on the other side of the street. It was very open, with clean white walls throughout, very well lit (this was helped that it was a perfect spring afternoon) and airy with window boxes stuffed with flowers as the background for the meal. I was eating early but it was worryingly quiet for a lunch time on a Saturday, I'm talking 3 other tables of people within the hour it took for this meal. 
The menu changes daily which can often be a little too Russian roulette for my liking but fortunately it was hit after hit on the day I visited. 

The amouse bouche was a prime example of the risks though, I know fennel definitely has that marmite effect and boasts a flavour and consistency that can completely drive people up the wall but I love love love fennel and so this dish of pickled fennel with fennel sorbet was right up my street.
The freshly baked sourdough had been raved about elsewhere and was reassuringly out of this world, I'm trying to think back to a better in-house baked restaurant bread and only the loaves at St John (naturally) and I had early days Upstairs at Ten Bells (which led to an internal dialogue of "do you think I could get away with buying one of these to snack on afterwards"- I didn't) comes close for me. Sure, your Troves and Baltic Bakes up here do the classics exceptionally but they're from full on bakeries. Suffice to say, the first portion was polished off quickly and the offer of a second bag of bread could not have been snapped up quicker.
Green asparagus, brown shrimp and confit lemon
A very impressive looking plate of food - several large portions of mixed asparagus that were lightly cooked and perfectly tender, the knife needed very little pressure for the veg to give. The brown shrimp were dotted around the veg and herbs alongside pools of a sauce that tasted almost like marie rose sauce, which made for a subtle reminder of a prawn cocktail.

Jersey royal, crispy chicken and wood sorrel
A really special plate of food - hidden away were several variations on the chicken theme including rich balls of chicken liver, chicken liver mousse, and shards of crispy chicken skin and wood sorrel placed over the top which added a real tang to everything. A great mix of textures and the different takes on chicken all retained their own distinct flavours. Great to see some good old fashioned spuds appear on a starter like this, used sparingly they added some nice weight to the opener.
Cornish pollock, artichoke, puettome and mussels
The pollock was a very flavorsome piece of fish, which melted in the mouth. The mussels were well cooked but retained some lovely wet juiceness. Sea purslane was dotted around to add to the presentation but the crispy shoe string potato was the real winner looks and taste wise - a great accompaniment to the tenderness elsewhere. The artichoke had been charred and looked wonderful on the plate but as ever didn't overly impress me with it's lack of real flavour.

Suckling pig, spring cabbage and lovage
The plate here hadn't done the presentation much justice as it was all at one end and the juices looked like they'd slid a fair bit during delivery to the table. The three sections of pig were all excellent, with a lovely fine layer of crackling as shown above. The hasselback style potato added some further crisp to the whole dish and the cabbage and tangy tomato sauce were very good as sides.
Apricot, elderflower and almond meringue
Another serving that looked to have slid around the dish slightly, leaving it looking a little messy. The apricots and chunks of biscuit were sweet and worked really well, the meringue I found to be quite odd - it tasted quite artificial, a really strange end to the meal.

The options are 2 courses for £19, 3 courses for £23 or 4 courses for £40. I skipped cheese and only tried one dessert so the bill for two came to a very reasonable £70 including wine and tip. The starters and mains were certainly very imaginative and felt very fresh flavour wise but the dessert fell a little flat. Despite this I would definitely be tempted to go back and keep an eye on the menu regularly to see what treats i've been missing out on.

Antidote Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

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