The 2010 Newcomer Catey winners, Agnar Sverrisson and Xavier Rousset of Texture fame, last summer branched out into the City with the launch of wine bar and bistro 28°-50°, where former Gordon Ramsay sous chef Paul Walsh is in charge of the kitchen. Kerstin Kühn reports
The duo behind London's Michelin-starred Texture, chef Agnar Sverrisson and sommelier Xavier Rousset, last summer branched out to launch a second venture in the City. While fine-dining restaurant Texture is all about the Nordic heritage of Icelandic chef Sverrisson, 28°-50° is very much Rousset's baby, with a classic bistro menu and a big focus on wine.
Even the name 28°-50° is grape related, referring to the latitudes in which most of the wine regions across the world are located. The restaurant offers twice-monthly wine workshops and although the list is quite small - about 15 whites and reds, all of which are served by the glass and carafe - there's no shortage of special bottles.
"We also have a collectors' list from private owners. It has given us the chance to get hold of cases that aren't widely available and have maturity that we wouldn't normally be able to buy as a restaurant. We're selling the bottles at a small mark-up, so it's really good value," explains Rousset.
Meanwhile, the four-strong kitchen brigade is overseen by head chef Paul Walsh, who joined 28°-50° from Gordon Ramsay's flagship restaurant on Royal Hospital Road, where he worked for more than four years, most recently as sous chef. The menu offers classic bistro fare, simple food cooked well. "The concept is easy going food," explains Walsh. "We are trying to keep things simple and use nice ingredients and cook them well." The emphasis is on flavour and getting the basics right including stocks and sauces, which are made from scratch every day. "I want to teach my chefs how to cook properly. So many young chefs these days don't have the proper grounding and I think it's so important to know basic cooking methods."
The menu features six starters and main courses starting at £6.50 and £14.50 respectively, and a set lunch menu is offered at £15.95 for two courses. This includes staples such as French onion soup, duck rillettes, shepherd's pie and daurade with spicy lentils, but Walsh says, surprisingly the set lunch is not diners' preferred choice. "It's quite strange really but we find that customers order much more from the main menu at lunchtime. Perhaps it's because even the à la carte is quite competitive." Indeed the offer at 28°-50° provides such great value for money that Michelin recognised the restaurant with a Bib Gourmand last month.
Starters include a foie gras and chicken liver parfait served with peach chutney (£7.50) in which half the butter is replaced with foie gras, resulting in a mousse that's lovely, fluffy and light. Meanwhile Achatines snails from Burgundy (£5.50) are presented on a bed of salad and topped with a very generous portion of grilled bacon. "The snails are marinated in thyme, garlic and olive oil and then heated up with garlic butter, shallot confit and parsley," explains Walsh.
The best seller among the main courses is the onglet of beef with triple-cooked chips and sauce choron (£15.50). "This has been the most popular dish right from the start. We used to have it on the lunch menu but took it off because it was so popular. It makes up about 25% of all main courses," says Walsh. Another best seller is a dish of pig cheeks and belly with swede and quince (£15.50). Walsh braises the meat overnight - the belly for 24 hours and the cheeks for 16 hours - and serves it with honeyed swede purée, curly kale and a quince-flavoured sauce.
Desserts continue the theme of simplicity and include four choices - each priced £6 - such as vanilla rice pudding with praline ice-cream, and pistachio crème brûlée with plum salad.
Located just near Chancery Lane, 28°-50° attracts mainly barristers and bankers at lunch but more of a varied crowd at dinner. A wine bar that serves great quality food at reasonable prices, it has clearly already made its mark on the City.
SAMPLE DISHES FROM THE MENU
Selection of charcuterie to share £11.50
Trout, fennel and avocado with mustard dressing £7.50
Duck rillettes with cornichons and sour dough £7
Baked Harlequin pumpkin risotto £14.50
Pheasant with celeriac fondant, mushrooms and bacon lardons £16.50
Mackerel with artichoke, capers and fennel velouté £14.50
Rhubarb compote with walnut ice crumble and yogurt sorbet £6
Pistachio crème brûlée with plum salad £6
Almond and cinnamon cake with pear sorbet £6
140 Fetter Lane, London EC4A 1BT
Tel: 020 7242 8877