Sheraon Park Tower,
London SW1X 7RN
Tel. 0207 290 7101
Food type: French/ Seafood
Food rating: 4/10
Nearest tube: Knightsbridge
I joined a couple of my friends to celebrate Easter. Going along with tradition, we decided that fish would probably be the best option especially since One-O-One is still running their 50% off promotion via toptable. This promotion has been running since like forever and I sometimes wonder whether it would be more sensible for the restaurant to adjust the pricing of the menu to reflect the discount. I suppose there will always be diners who are oblivious about internet promotions.
Breton chef Pascal Proyart was brought up in a small fishing village along the Brittany coast. Given his pedigree, it is unsurprising that Proyart has an immense passion for all things seafood. He started his culinary training at ‘Les Sorbets’ Hotel School before travelling and working in a number of hotels and restaurants in Europe with yves Mattagne and Jacques le Divellec at the two Michelin-starred Sea Grill in Brussels and two-star Le Divellec in Paris. He has since been head chef at One-O-One at the Sheraton for the past 10 years where he has discreetly built up his reputation. While a Michelin star has thus eluded him, he has nevertheless received the support of the hotel which was most recently (in 2007 to be exact) culminated in a (much-needed) £800,000 refurbishment of the dining room. During this 3 month period, Proyart spent his time abroad broadening his culinary repertoire at Michelin-starred kitchens in France, Spain and Belgium. Thanks to his numerous travels, we can thank Proyart for introducing King Crab from the Barents sea, which Independent writer Terry Durack proclaimed as one of his ‘unforgettable dishes’ of 2007, and more recently Skrei, to the English public.
One-O-One is located within the Sheraton Tower Hotel, a hideous relic of a building sticking out like a sore thumb in the middle of Knightsbridge. This granite grey chocolate bar-cum-pineapple hybrid monstrosity is *shockingly* a 5-star hotel. Once you step into the restaurant, via a side entrance, your senses return to some normality. The restaurant itself is split into a trendy oyster pearl themed drinks lounge and the a more formal dining room. Tables are well spaced with Paul Smith themed sofas encircling the room. In essence, the dining room is a wity take on the seaside theme – the brown walls matched by the turqoise sofas and olive green seats while the white wavy curtain certainly give the illusion of the ocean.
The menu has sensibly ditched the confusing theme of High Tide, Sea and Earth, Low Tide and Shore for a more straight forward starters, main course and desserts. Starters are priced between £14 – £19, Mains £23 – £29 and Desserts £8. Proyart has also introduced his version of a tasting menu called ‘Petit Plats‘ where diners can create their own tasting menu experience from a list of dishes. These small plates, priced at £38 for 3 dishes and with a £10 supplement for each additional course, are similar in concept to that at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon and Club Gascon. Lunch follows a similar concept except it is a less pricey affair, starting at £19 for 3 courses. Ingredients are carefully sourced from all over the world. For example, the aforementioned king crabs from the Barents sea are joined by Norwegian scallops, cod, halibut, Scottish salmon, Brittany shellfish and Cornish sea bass.
Bread was a simple selection of white and brown rolls, both annoyingly tough and hard, as well as a highly enjoyable black olive foccacia which was light, fluffy and airy (5/10). These were made on site although like many restaurants I have visited recently, they were frustratingly served cold. Butter from Brittany was a choice of unsalted or, in keeping with the seafood theme of the restaurant, seaweed infused.
Salt Cod and Salmon Brandade, Garlic Croutons
An amuse bouche of cod and salmon brandade with a few thin slivers of crisp garlic croutons was brought to us while we awaited our first course. This had a pleasant texture but none too remarkable taste, with flavours that were very one dimensional. (2/10)
Pan-Roasted Langoustine Tournedos and Duck Foie Gras, Peking Duck Marmite, Hoi Sin Froth
Proyart has an obsession with the concept of ‘Surf & Turf’ as can be seen by his various interpretations of it on his menu. We tried the less than natural pairing of langoustines and foie gras. A small lobe of hot seared duck foie gras sat on top of three very plump langoustines and a circular disc of duck consomme jelly, decorated with a langoustine claw (I am never convinced with using inedible elements for the purpose of decoration) and a thin swirl of orange peel. A few ‘lardons’ of duck skin were scattered around the bowl before it was finished at the table with some hoi sin infused consomme. The concept of pairing a shellfish such as langoustine with a rich element such as foie gras is tricky as it involves a careful balancing act although the results can be spectacular when executed correctly (e.g. Thomas Keller’s infamous lobster, foie gras and fig ‘surf and turf’). While the langoustines and foie gras themselves had good taste, I felt that, combined, their juxtaposition of flavours was all too jarring with the fatty liver overwhelming the sweet delicate flavour of the langoustine. In all honesty, this dish was one ingredient surplus of what would otherwise have been an excellent dish, especially as the langoustine and the ethereal duck-hoi sin broth was a winning combination. (4/10)
Rock Oyster from Marennes D’Oléron – L’Experience: Shallot Vinegar, Yuzu Sorbet & Vodka, Tempura with Soya Pipettes
A ‘tasting’ of oysters featured three medium sized oysters served atop a large brick of hardened salt and seaweed. Our waiter suggested we began with the oyster tempura with a cheeky small pipette placed in situ to inject some soya sauce within the oyster. Unfortunately the fried oyster tasted of batter and not much else – a pale shadow of the fried oysters I enjoyed at Wright Brothers. Next was an adventurous pairing with yuzu sorbet and a vodka infused cream which was OK and the more conventional shallot vinegar. The oysters themselves were not as outrageously high quality ones that I have purchased at Borough Market. (3/10)
Scottish Smoked Salmon with Parsley Crushed Potato & Capers, Horseradish Cream Mouillette, Balsamic Jelly
Hello smiley face! This had to be one of the most interesting presentations I have come across. Smoked salmon was fine along with the usual suspects of crushed potatoes, capers and horseradish cream. A balsamic jelly cube seemed superfluous to the entire composition of the dish although I suppose it did look like a nose. (3/10)
Native Lobster and Fennel Macedoine Salad, Red King Crab Pastilla, Apple Jelly and Sorbet
A tian of shredded lobster and fennel salad was accompanied by a perfectly judged apple sorbet and some apple jelly which complemented the sweet lobster meat well. On the other side of the plate was a small pastilla of king crab which I was quite sceptical off, sitting on top of of a king crab roll which resembled those fake crab sticks that is all too common in oriental cooking. The filo-wrapped crab wanton concealed the flaky, delicate meat, which despite the frying process stood out magnificently. Perhaps the chef could think of a way to market these pastillas since they would make a perfect snack for hungry medical students revising for their exams. Sadly, the little crab stick… I mean crab roll got lost in the midst of all the flavours flying left, right and centre. (4/10)
Norwegian Red King Crab from The Barents Sea, Chilled with Aioli Sauce and a Few Winkles
More crab sticks, I mean crab rolls arrived, this time with a more sensible pairing with aioli and winkle salad. These rolls, made from the big fat crab legs were cooked in a water bath to retain its delicate flavours. As a dish it was hard to fault although at the same time there was very little to remember it by. (3/10)
Green Asparagus Risotto with Onzen Quail Egg, Morels Fricassée, Petit Croûtons and Chervil Nage
You know it is asparagus season when every restaurant in town will have asparagus on the menu and you simply can’t escape it one way or another. A very pleasant risotto had good quality asparagus, topped with an ‘onzen’ quail egg which was a little less runny than I would have liked, perhaps because it was allowed to stand under the hot plate for a fraction too long. The risotto rice itself had good texture with just that little bite. ‘Onzen’ is a term which refers to Japanese baths and here it is used to indicate the cooking method of the egg in a warm water bath. A few bland tasting dehydrated morels were an unnecessary addition to the dish. (4/10)
Red Mullet Bouillabaisse with Small Brittany Shellfish Ragout, Rouille and Seaweed Mouillette
Bouillabaisse is a pretty difficult dish to get right. Part of the problem is the fish in this country somehow lacks that certain element which is found in Mediterranean fish. This was probably one of the most disappointing dishes of the night. The red mullet while flakey was rather dry and devoid of any significant flavour. This was more of a problem with the sourcing of the fish as much as the technique. The advertised rouille was conspicuous by its absence. Thus it was left to the ragout of shellfish (an assortment of clams, cockles and winkles) and the bouillabaisse sauce to rescue the day, which to the credit of the restaurant, was very good. (2/10)
Pan-Roasted Norwegian White Halibut and Lobster Dumpling, Paimpol Coco Beans Truffle Cassoulet, Sauce Américaine
Bouncing straight back was my favourite dish of the night – a perfectly cooked juicy ‘steak’ of halibut with a classic Sauce Américaine (lobster sauce) and a Chinese influenced lobster dumpling on the side. The halibut, not an easy fish to cook in the first place as it tends to dry out easily, was handled beautifully which makes the lapse in the mullet even more puzzling. A little truffled white bean stew, the intriguingly named Coco de Paimpol (a semi-dry bean from the Cotes d’Armor region of Brittany) provided an element of richness to the dish, especially when combined with the clean, refreshing parsley puree. (5/10)
Oven Baked Fillet of Wild Seabass with Niçoise Tapenade, Basil Crushed Potato, Mozzarella, Artichokes, Olive Oil Barigoule sauce
A baked fillet of wild seabass was nicely timed reinforcing the chef’s mastery in cooking fish. Its combination with the salty, tangy black olive tapenade and an artichoke barigoule sauce (made from fish stock and artichoke barigoule juice) felt assured although I am still unconvinced by the presence of the chewy mozzarella. Perhaps if the fish were to be stuffed with the mozarella before it was baked, it would have made slightly more sense but in its fresh, natural form, it was more akin to a piece of rubber to chew on. (4/10)
Roasted Guinea Fowl and Pigeon with Pancetta and Sage, Fricassée of Pea, Baby Carrot and Broad Beans “A la Française”, Ruby Port Jus
Despite being primarily a specialist fish restaurant, Proyart has also included a few meat dishes on the menu, no doubt to satisfy hungry men like myself. As such it would have been criminal not to try at least one of his meat offerings. Guinea fowl stuffed with pigeon was cooked pink served with a little pancetta scratchings on the side. The guinea fowl had good taste and was still moist and juicy although the purpose of stuffing it with pigeon completely eludes me as big bird completely overpowered little bird. Funnily enough, our waiter introduced the little scoops of steamed potatoes on the side as gnocchi. Irregardless of what the actual identity of the spuds actually are, they served their sole function of mopping up the ruby port jus (which could have been slightly more reduced) accompanying the poultry. (4/10)
Coupe Liégeoise of Dark “Manjari” Chocolate, Coffee and Salt Caramel Ice Cream
After making out way through all the dishes, desserts seemed like a non-event. A frothy coupe liégeoise of Manjari chocolate, served in a little bowl with two little chocolate brownies, salted caramel ice cream, coffee mousse and some honey comb bits was a interesting take on a Cadbury Honey Almond Picnic chocolate bar. A nice comforting dessert. (3/10)
Rum Baba and Coconut Chantilly, Anise Infused Pineapple
Less enjoyable was a rum baba with coconut infused chantilly cream and pineapple marinated with a bit of star anise. I suppose it is unfair to compare the baba here to that at Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester, but this even fails in comparison to the version at Brasserie Roux – the ‘cake’ heavy and stodgy without any significant rum taste to give it the good ol’ kick up the backside. (2/10)
Service at One-O-One was friendly although very stretched when the dining room got progressively busier later in the evening and even flagging someone down to get another bottle of water or more bread was difficult. There was clear shortage of waiters which perhaps is a reflection of the state many restaurants are currently in with the on-going recession. Even the kitchen were churning out dishes at a slow (although still acceptable) pace. I thought the maitre’d was joking when he said that we would be dining until 11.30 pm with the number of petit plat dishes we had requested. Perhaps the whole concept of the petit plat is partly to blame as the kitchen has to cook different dishes in a mix and match manner. I suppose, at very least we didn’t feel like we were being processed unlike at some other (unmentionable) restaurants.
The cooking here is pleasant and enjoyable although it is still a way off the Michelin star (or two) that Proyart is trying to win. Throughout the whole evening, most dishes (bar the red mullet bouillabaisse and rum baba) fell into the category of ‘nice’ but never memorable, and at times trying a wee bit too hard with too many different elements. Our dinner was of course significantly cheaper with the 50% Toptable discount, and at these prices represent good value for the level of cooking on show. Without it though, I don’t think I could ever justify visiting in the first place.