Texture has fast become of the hottest tables in London Town, so we were thrilled to finally snag a table. And on a Friday night, at that. Found at 34 Portman Street in Mayfair, the Michelin-starred restaurant harks back to the days of yesteryear when the city’s restaurant scene was all about fine-dining, glitz and glamour; and while it may seem a little out of step with current trends – see Hg2 London writer Fleur Britten‘s feature on ‘The Death of Fine Dining’ here – it was, admittedly, a refreshing change to step in from the cold and into a warm, moodily-lit room that oozed the grandeur of yesteryear. Think ridiculously high ceilings, white-washed wood-panelled walls, serious black tables and low brown leather seats. There are some quirky touches to break up the seriousness of the space, such as a hunk of twisting driftwood encased in a glass box and some rather misplaced modern art adorning the walls, but in all, this is an elegant, old-world dining room that attracts suits, serious foodies and a generally somber-looking crowd that mixes business with pleasure.
Split into two distinct spaces – a Champagne bar at the front and a restaurant at the back – we first enjoyed celebrity-like status over pre-dinner glasses of bubbly (the Champagne-laced mojito was, quite simply, divine) before being ushered through for what we’d heard would be a decadent dinner indeed.
The menu, headed up by Reykjavik-born Agnar Sverrison, is defined as modern European, and is small but perfectly formed with cost-conscious options such as a lunch menu, two- and three-course set menus, a range of tasting menus and à la carte. First up was a bowl of warm brown bread, together with crisp wafers of codskin, and was a promising sign of things to come. For starters, Hg2 opted for two plump scallops, caramelised perfectly on top and accompanied with Asian-style coconut, ginger and sol; flavour and texture (as you’d expect) was immense, though the dish could have done with a dash more colour to break things up aesthetically. The second starter was Icelandic lightly-salted cod with barley risotto, prawns and shellfish jus; clearly, native Icelandic chef Sverisson knows a thing or two about the fish there, and this was evident through flaky chunks of white meat and a rich, creamy risotto accompaniment. A scoop of valrhona white chocolate mousse made for a welcome palette-cleanser between courses, too. For mains, we opted for the grain-fed beef rib-eye with ox cheek, horseradish and olive oil bearnaise; it was, quite frankly, mind-blowing, with the beef cooked to utter perfection. The other main was shoulder of Icelandic lamb, served with herbs and mustard. Again, faultless. Wrapping things up nicely was a shared dish of valrhona white chocolate, which came with mousse, ice-cream, dill and cucumber. It was a light, airy way to finish up a meal – though we could have lived without yet more mousse.
As you’d expect from a place co-owned by award-winning sommelier Xavier Rousset, the wine list is extensive but by no means intimidating. There’s no too many offered by the glass – six or so, at most – but a healthy range of half-bottles ensure that those who are watching both their alcohol units and credit bills are well catered for. On the other hand, those who don’t mind blowing the budget (or their waistlines) can enjoy a romp through France and other lesser-known countries, as well as pop open over 50 different bottles of bubbly. Our sommelier on the night – her name escapes us – was classy, charismatic and spot-on with her pairing recommendations.
Our night at Texture was a well-planned, well-executed affair, but our one gripe would be the service; while our initial reception in the Champagne bar had been excellent, service in the restaurant plodded along without any sense of urgency. And when we informed the staff that one member of our party couldn’t eat dairy, it was casually brushed off (and indeed, served) throughout the evening.
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