438 King’s Road,
London, SW10 OLJ
Tel. 020 7349 1900
Food type: Modern French
Nearest tube: Sloane Square/ Fulham Broadway (a bit of a walk from both)
I have a confession – I am a regular at Medlar. On average I dine here twice a month. I have been coming here soon after they opened and have gone through all the ups and downs of winning and subsequently losing a Michelin star. As much as I enjoy Michelin star dining, I love good food even more. Even more so if it is delivered in a casual setting with a good wine list and service to match. That is something Medlar does very well – offer delicious food, at a very fair price point with relaxed yet attentive service. And I can enjoy all of this dressed in a t-shirt and jeans if I so choose to do so.
The menu here is simple, 3 courses for £46. No lengthy tasting menus. If you are free for lunch, the same menu (minus one or two dishes) can be had for £28, a real bargain given the quality of cooking. There are options for everyone. The menu is constantly changing every month with new dishes introduced to match the seasons. Chef/owner Joe Mercer Nairne has not only trained in some of the top kitchens in England but also had a stint working under Neil Perry at Rockpool. His time in Australia is often reflected in his cooking which features a myriad of international flavours.
One dish which reflects Joe’s classical training is his signature Crab Raviolo with Samphire is one of them, having been on the menu since day one. Any attempts of removing it from the menu would probably be greeted by an angry mob with pitchforks. This dish alone probably accounts for 50% of their starter sales. Tucking into the dish you can understand why – perfectly made silky pasta is generously filled to the brim with picked crab meat bound with a little scallop mousse. The dish is garnished with some brown shrimp and samphire and tied together by a lovely shellfish bisque. When a friend of mine visited London, we had the opportunity of eating this dish as well as Ramsay’s famous Lobster Raviolo on back to back meals. She declared Medlar’s raviolo the clear winner and decided to come back here a further two times just for this dish alone. In the same week.
Whoever is on the stove cooking fish really deserves a pat on the back and probably a pay rise. On countless visits, I have encountered some of the best fish cooking. Take for example a current dish on the menu of Cornish Skate with artichokes and clams – the fish is expertly cooked on the bone so that it has a beautifully crisp exterior while remaining moist. The fennel puree and baby artichokes give the dish a light Mediterranean touch – perfect on a warm day.
However, what draws me back here time and time again is that they offer a variety of offal on the menu. It is not hard for any chef to make a tasty dish out of fillet steak or rack of lamb but offal cooking is a lot more challenging, requiring a lot more work to make these off cuts remotely palatable. Over the years brains, liver, tongue, tripe and even lamb fries have featured on the menu. The offal dishes here are a lot more elaborate than the rustic dishes served at St. John’s . A current favourite is a main course featuring Rare-grilled Ox Heart with White Asparagus. The heart is timed perfectly and sliced thinly to ensure that it melts in your mouth. On the side is a crisp and soft pomme anna with a crispy nugget of sweetbread sitting on top.
The co-owner and maître d’, David O’Connor, takes great pride in his cheese board sourcing from various affineurs including Bernard Anthony (Alsace), Marie-Anne Cantine (Paris) and Buchanans (London). Often in London, the cheese board is an afterthought with cheeses in variable and sometimes questionable condition. The board here is in immaculate condition and depending on your luck you may find gems such as 2 year old Gruyère or 4 year old Gouda.
Desserts here are a simple affair with an ice cream and sorbet always on the menu. Sadly my beloved Honeycomb Ice Cream which makes sporadic appearances on the menu has again gone MIA. Instead, I will have to make do with dishes such as Canelé with cherries and cocoa nib ice cream until it makes a return. Joe has got canelé making down to a T with a crunchy exterior and a chewy interior.
Medlar is never meant to be a temple of gastronomy. In some ways, the award of a Michelin star was a bit of a double-edged sword and had led to some unnecessarily high expectations of what a meal here should be like. With that said, I can probably come up with a whole list of restaurants who are less deserving of a Michelin star in England. If you were to take Medlar for what it set out to be in the first place – a good neighbourhood restaurant – then you will have a cracking great time.
Below is a selection of photographs of what is on their current menu.