Following its countless successes in London, Soho House Group has high expectation to live up to. But, with launches like Dean Street Townhouse, it just keeps on exceeding it. Tom Vaughan reports.
The fact that there are so few surprises at Soho newcomer Dean Street Townhouse Dining Room seems somehow to make it all the more refreshing. Launched in a Georgian townhouse last autumn, the elegant, comfy and fashionable men's club-style interior lives up to the high standards you'd expect from trendsetter the Soho House Group.
The menu treads the new-old-fashioned British path that first Mark Hix and now current chef director Tim Hughes have so successfully executed at Caprice Holdings (like Soho House Group, under the careful eyes and deep pockets of Richard Caring). Everything else about the project - even the rooms in the boutique hotel upstairs - suggest longevity and durability, rather than flash-in-the-pan headline-grabbing.
It speaks volumes of the high standards of Soho House, and its constant ability to live up to them, that head chef Stephen Tonkin's menu has been so well received. Dishes mix classic British comfort food with meticulously sourced ingredients designed to show off the best of Britain.
Among the starters, a dish of scallops, wild garlic and wild boar sausage (£9) stands out. The scallops are seared in their half shell, and a mix of sweated shallots and garlic mixed with breadcrumbs, parsley and wild garlic, before the whole lot is baked in the oven. Elsewhere, a hearty, warming salad of wild rabbit, black pudding and a Scotch quail's egg (£9.75) is a perfect example of what Tonkin describes as "honest British food, where the ingredients, more than the presentation, say most about the dish".
The first English asparagus is due to appear on the menu soon, having arrived from the Wye Valley. It will be served hot with a hollandaise sauce, or at room temperature with a Dijon mustard vinaigrette.
The restaurant's signature dish, a main course of mince and boiled potatoes, says everything you need to know about the unfussy, well-sourced and well-executed cuisine the restaurant showcases.
"It's a dish your mum might have cooked you, only done to restaurant standard," says Tonkin.
A medium coarse mince is cooked with shallots, garlic, tomato purée, thyme, bay leaf and a splash of red wine and chicken stock, then finished with Worchester sauce and tomato ketchup, and served with streamed and shaken potatoes, themselves finished with butter and parsley. The coarseness ensures the mince carries the flavour much better, and holds a better texture. The potatoes are served at the table, spooned on top of the mince. At just £10.50, it's a worthy signature dish.
Another main that says much of the site is the Anglesey sea bass, kippered, boned and trimmed, seared in rapeseed oil and served with blanched sea kale and sea purslane (£21). The dish's strength isn't necessarily the presentation, but the provenance, the seasonality and the execution of all the mildly exotic British coastal ingredients.
Among the desserts, an Eton mess reinterpretation of Gariguette strawberries (for once not reflecting the British seasons but, in Tonkin's words, "you can't say no to Gariguette strawberries"), with a vanilla parfait, crushed meringue and a strawberry syrup (£5.50).
Elsewhere, chilled rice pudding and Bakewell tart (both £5.25) tick all the comfort food boxes. Meanwhile, traditionalists will be pleased to see the re-emergence among British restaurants of savouries, allowing diners to slot a course of Welsh or Buck rarebit (£4.75/£6) or smoked anchovies on toast (£5.75) into their meal.
It's a superb time to visit Dean Street Townhouse. Tonkin and Hughes' dedication to digging out artisan British suppliers, and the instinctive flow of the menu with the seasons mean that spring's bounty (St George's mushrooms, gull's eggs, broad beans, and so on) gets the centre billing you'd hope. The fact that the 120-seat restaurant has slotted into the capital so seamlessly, with such early success, is down to the fact that this well-versed British, seasonal cooking is not only very much of the moment; it's rooted squarely in the past and hopefully will define the future.
Dean Street Townhouse
69-70 Dean Street
London W1D 3SE
Tel: 020 7434 1775
WHAT'S ON THE MENU
- Twice baked smoked haddock souffle, £8.50
- Mixed beetroot, goat's curd and ruby leaves, £7.50
- Chicory, Dorset crab and blood orange salad, £10.50
- Fillet of cod, surf clams and chervil, £16.75
- Pan-fried ray, capers, parsley and lemon, £18.50
- Salt beef, caraway dumplings and pickle, £16.50
- White chocolate cheesecake, Gariguette strawberries, £5.50
- Peanut shortbread with salted caramel ice-cream, £5.25
- Steamed marmalade sponge with custard (to share), £10