Prism's progress

31 May 2001
Prism's progress

With a career that includes stints working with Bruno Loubet and Anthony Demetre - first at London's Four Seasons hotel, then at the capital's L'Odeon restaurant where he eventually succeeded as head chef - it is not surprising that Prism's new kitchen king, Colin Layfield, should expend a lot of effort on the detail of the dishes in his opening menu at Harvey Nichols' City restaurant.

"We want to make the restaurant more of a destination venue in the evenings than it has been, so I'm sending out amuse-bouches and pre-desserts, and putting a lot more detail on the plate to establish the fine-dining profile," says Layfield.

Unwilling to categorise his cooking style, Layfield admits to putting out modern European food on his à la carte menu carrying 12, 10 and six choices, respectively, at starter, main and dessert level. Nevertheless, many of his seasonally-changing dishes are rooted in French, Italian or Spanish cuisine, using both luxury and rustic ingredients: foie gras, rabbit, beef, black truffle, tuna, veal and langoustine, for instance.

Modernity is imparted by the form in which dishes are served and the additional components matched on the plate. For example, a best-selling terrine starter incorporates foie gras, black truffle and squab pigeon served with pear chutney (£15), while another popular entrée of lobster is served in tortellini form accompanied by courgette chutney and tomato coulis (£12). One of the flavours of the moment, wasabi, creeps in, too, served as a mayonnaise with seared fillet of beef carpaccio, chargrilled aubergine salad, truffle and Parmesan (£13.50).

Popular main selections that Layfield and his 15-strong brigade send out to the City businessmen and women in the 120-seat restaurant include chargrilled lamb cutlets, braised lamb shoulder, garlic mash, aubergine caviar, tomato and garlic sauce (£23). "It's quite a meaty dish - the boys really like it," he says. Other top noshes include an assiette of veal (£24) and fillet of red mullet, pesto ravioli, provençal vegetables, orange jus (£25).

As you'd expect in chocolate-addicted Britain, an assiette of cocoa-rich desserts (£12.50) is a well-ordered menu item. "If we send one up at the beginning of service we really get hammered on it," says Layfield. The pud comprises a chocolate fondant, chocolate puff-pastry tarte with white chocolate sorbet and a chocolate cone filled with white chocolate mousse and shot through with framboise-soaked raspberries.

Also on offer is a selection of citrus sorbets (£6) - lime, orange and grapefruit at the moment - which, like the rosemary bread accompanying the selection of English and Continental cheeses (£8.50), is made on-site.

Currently, average spend per head is running at between £30 and £38 (excluding wine) but diners wanting a more casual eating atmosphere can use the 30-seat Prism bar, which carries a 10-choice main and four-choice dessert menu covering a price range of £3.75-£12.50. Dishes such as chicken and sun-dried tomato sausages with saffron mash (£11.50) have helped to more than double bar business at lunchtimes.

With the restaurant serving an average of 120-130 lunchtime and around 60 evening covers, and two private dining rooms seating a combined total of 42 extra guests, Layfield's days are pretty hectic in the weekly-opening, ex-banking hall eaterie.

But then the 30-year-old Warwickshire-born chef does have the compensation of having his weekends free as the City-located restaurant closes on Saturdays and Sundays.

Prism, 147 Leadenhall Street, London EC3V 4QT. Tel: 020 7256 3888

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