South Place Hotel
3 South Place
London EC2M 2AF
Tel. 020 3215 1260
Food type: Modern British
Nearest tube: Moorgate
Angler is a lovely fish-centric restaurant under the D&D group located at the top floor of the boutique South Place Hotel. The restaurant holds a Michelin star which they earned under executive chef Tony Fleming. The reason for me visiting the restaurant however was because they had recently employed a new executive chef – Gary Foulkes who was previously Phil Howard’s right hand man at the Square. Gary had informed me during my last visit to the Square he was leaving to take up the job here at Angler. As head chef at the Square, Gary had a lot of input with regards to the creation of new dishes, more so than say the head chef at Claude Bosi’s Hibiscus. Given that I was a big fan of Gary’s cooking when he was at the Square, I was very keen to see what he could do out on his own. Interestingly enough, he has silently taken up his new role at Angler for a month without much fanfare – the restaurant website still lists Fleming as their executive chef!
The restaurant serves lunch and dinner and is very popular during the week with the business dealers, given its location near London’s financial district. The lunch menu is priced at £35 for 3 courses or £49 for a 6 course tasting menu. At dinner there is an a la carte menu (items individually priced) as well as two tasting menus priced at £59 (5 courses) and £85 (8 courses). As per usual, I left it with Gary to decide what he wanted to serve us on the night.
We began our meal with a drink at the terrace – in our case Salon Le Mesnil 1999 – where we were served an excellent short rib cromesqui topped with a bagna cauda dressing and seaweed powder. The cromesqui had plenty of beefy flavour whilst remaining moist while the seaweed powder added an umami note. This would be a recurring theme throughout the dinner as Gary is a big fan of using seaweed as a umami booster in his cooking. Once we were seated, two further canapés were presented to us. A potato crisp with lemon myrtle dressing was fine but the clear winner was a tempura of shiso leaf with tuna tartare and wasabi mayonnaise. It was interesting to note that the cooking process applied to the shiso leaf significantly changed minty characteristic resulting in a more mellow flavour.
The first official course was a tartare of mackerel with an oyster cream and pickled cucumber. I love the use of the oyster cream here as it gave the dish body with a lingering note of minerality to match the fattiness of the mackerel. This was balanced out by the pickled cucumber with a gentle amount of acidity to cut provide relief to the palate. We drank a Riesling ‘Cuvee Frederic Emile’ Domaine Trimbach 2009 with the mackerel which was fruity, dry and slightly tangy and a good foil to the oiliness of the mackerel.
Next up was a seasonal white asparagus from Provence. Normally when white asparagus is served it is often steamed or boiled but here Gary chooses to roast his with ample amounts of butter and boosts the nuttiness with the addition of hazelnuts. A little dollop of Montgomery cheddar fondue provided umami richness as a counterpoint to the vegetal notes of the asparagus. Finally, a meaty, earthy element in the form of Iberico jamon finishes off the dish – the residual heat from the asparagus gently warming the pig fat to give it a lovely succulent, gelatinous texture.
We then followed with a sequence of fish courses. Lemon sole was steamed and served with a kombu-dashi broth with squid tagliatelle and enoki mushrooms. If this dish seems familiar, that’s because it is the same dish served at the Square. The only difference here is that he has substituted turbot with lemon sole on this instance. Looking at the restaurant menu however, this is not a permanent substitution but rather one necessitated by the produce on the day. The execution here is even better than when I ate it at the Square with the broth having a cleaner, more pure taste to it without any of the bitterness you can get from the kombu when it is cooked at too high a heat. The squid as well, flash frozen and cut into ribbons, had much better texture this time around. I chose to drink a Hermitage Chave 2000 with the sole. While not the most obvious or natural pairing, the meatiness from the kombu-dashi broth paired up well with the juiciness of the wine whose tannins were relatively well integrated.
Up next, we had red mullet which had been grilled to provide a crispy skin sitting on top a bed of hand-rolled garganelles, morels and peas. The mullet had been timed perfectly, firm, meaty and displaying its slightly iodine characteristics. The peas (from Italy) were excellent having a lovely sweetness to them which is unsurprising given their provenance. Also, being a bit of a pasta lover, I was very pleased to see the garganelles which retained a lovely chewiness to them. Proper al dente as opposed to British al dente. For the next two courses, we drank Alion 2008 which was still very youthful, full of cherry stones and red fruits.
The final fish course was a fillet of John Dory, roasted to give a lovely golden crust but the fish remaining moist. I must admit, John Dory is not my favourite fish – it is a cheap fish from where I come from and develops a tough texture when it is overcooked, which is very easy to do so since it is relatively lean. The kitchen got the cooking spot on and the technique to have such a lovely char to develop a crispy golden crust but keeping the fish moist is a difficult one to master. To accompany the fish was a crispy stuffed chicken wing (another one of Gary’s creation from the Square), garlic cream and a porcini mushroom. My friend commented that the porcini mushroom was extremely well cooked and I must say I agree with him.
Our main course was a short rib of Black Angus beef which had been slow cooked until meltingly tender before being lovingly glazed to achieve a sweet, sticky, caramelised finish. I am a big fan of the way Gary cooks his short rib having eaten it in various guises at the Square. The cooking process maximises the beefiness of the (er) beef and also increases its unctuousness such that it literally falls apart on the fork. Here, the garnish has been changed in accordance with the seasons and now includes garlic scapes (flowering buds) which seems to be the latest restaurant fad and an excellent oxtail croquette. We drank Clos Rougeard ‘Le Bourg’ 2009 which was very approachable – plenty of dark berries with a hint of medicinal notes to it.
After a short break, we began our dessert sequence with some Royal Tokaji 5 Puttonyos 2009. First up was a Gooseberry and elderflower fool which was well made. I love gooseberries and it is a shame that it is restaurants do not feature it much on their menu. There was a lovely balance of acidity and sweetness with the natural perfume from the elderflower coming through nicely.
The second dessert was a favourite of mine – variations of strawberries with black olive and basil. Here both Gariguette and wild strawberries were used giving different bursts of sweetness and acidity. The addition of black olive puree may not be to everyone’s taste, but it gave the dish a much needed salty element to balance all the inherent sweetness on the plate. The basil element was kept very subtle with little basil cress. Even though I like to eat my strawberries at home with some basil and balsamic vinegar, I find that restaurants often overdo the amount of basil such that it leaves a metallic tang on the palate.
Finally, the last dessert was a firm favourite at the Square – slow cooked chocolate with a banana ice cream. I still remember eating this dish at the Square and my subsequent day working in their kitchen where Gary and his team showed me how this dish was created. I also remember the dish being so popular during their lunch service that they ran out of it and the poor pastry chef had to whip up another batch ‘a la minute’ with orders piling up. It is not a true fondant per se as the chocolate does not have a cake like crust but rather the whole thing is like a set fondant centre if that makes any sense. A truly wonderful dessert.
We really enjoyed our meal here at Angler. I was very keen to see if Gary would be able to deliver the same level of cooking that he did at the Square with a new kitchen and with a different budget/ food costing restrictions that would be placed upon him when working with D&D. At the end of our meal, I managed to catch up with him and he informs me that with Phil leaving the Square, he had been able to lure a few of the chefs from the Square to work for him at Angler. This is probably one of the reasons he has been able to make the smooth transition into his new kitchen and deliver his own food to such a high standard just one month into his new job. It will be interesting to see how his food and cooking style develops further in due course.