Two months after departing dell'Ugo to take on the role of head chef at Bistrot 2 Riverside in the Oxo Tower on London's South Bank, Matthew Fanthorpe has begun to stamp his personality on proceedings.
Fanthorpe has just instigated the first menu change of his reign, which seeks to bring a lighter, more seasonal tone. "I intend to change it every three to four weeks. We'll probably change two-thirds at a time and keep a core," he says.
Seasonal touches include the addition of asparagus and broad beans, while lighter dishes include gazpacho (£3.75) and summer pudding (£4.25).
Seven of the 14 starters are new and include a brandade stuffed roast pepper, mizuna and a‹oli. "For the brandade we salt fillets of cod for about 48 hours with some thyme and sea salt, then poach it in milk, strain it and mix with mashed potato, olive oil, garlic and a bit of cream, stuff it into a roasted bell pepper and gently warm it."
Particularly popular starters are proving to be the plate of Spanish flavours - serrano, chorizo, tortilla, bravas, piquillo and Cantabrian anchovies (£6.95) and the fresh Cornish crab crostini with avocado and lemon chilli oil (£6.95).
Fanthorpe says all the new additions to the pasta selection have proved popular, especially the linguine with clams and saffron (£6.95/£8.95).
The main course fish dishes take in classic English, modern British, European and Creole influences, with blackened red snapper, roast squash, crispy noodles and cream sauce (£11.75) a strong seller.
Perhaps surprisingly, customers are ordering best end of lamb with broad beans and sweetbread sausage (£12.25) in reasonable numbers. "There are lumps of sweetbread through the sausages, but we mix it with minced lamb, minced pork fat, and herbs and onions. I wouldn't dare put sweetbread on its own in this restaurant."
The nine puddings range from £4.25 to £4.95 and include classics such as tarte tatin, Calvados and crème fraîche (£4.25) and modern European dishes such as orange polenta cake, malt chocolate ice-cream (£4.25).
With a brigade of 31 chefs and 12 porters, Fanthorpe spends service passing dishes on the plate. The average cost of the new menu has risen, bringing average spend up to £22 at lunch and £29 at dinner. But this hasn't put off diners: covers have also risen, with the average for lunch 130, and 180 in the evening, with high spots of 150 and 220, respectively, at weekends.
Bistrot 2 Riverside, Second Floor, Oxo Tower Wharf, Bargehouse Street, London SE1 9PH. Tel: 0171-401 8200.