Chelsea restaurant Eighty-Six, which opened a year ago, now has a relaunched food offering, courtesy of head chef Aydon Yeaman, who has made the menu more varied and flexible. Neil Gerrard reports
It has been a period of change at Eighty-Six, the restaurant and bar in London's Fulham Road. Now a year old, the business recently saw the departure of ex-Bluebird executive chef Mark Broadbent, who had been drafted in by Eighty-Six's owners George Adams and Charlie Kearns to create a modern European menu for the restaurant.
Since Broadbent's departure two months ago it has been up to head chef Aydon Yeaman to refashion the food offer at the restaurant. Yeaman, who joined last January, has taken the menu away from the £32 three-course, set-price offer, and made it into an à la carte arrangement.
The reason for this, he explains, was simple. "We have quite a young crowd going through to a middle-aged crowd so you do have to pitch something a bit different," he says. "You have also your Saturday people who just want something reasonably cheap with a few drinks, going up to your Chelsea people who want roast grouse or something like that."
That variety in the clientele is accentuated by the division between bar and restaurant, with the bar occupying the ground floor, while the main restaurant area runs around the bar at first floor level, allowing diners to look down on the drinkers below from a mezzanine floor.
"On the first floor you have the noise infiltrating from the bar and that does dictate your crowd a bit. The £32 menu that we used to do was good but we can't offer the same eating environment as Chez Bruce - we have to be realistic about that," Yeaman says.
It makes sense then, that there is a range of sharing platters for people who are looking for lighter food as they enjoy a drink. The focaccia and IGP olive oil (£3), is a case in point. The bread is made in-house every day and Yeaman reckons it is cheaper, as well as tasting better.
"It was quite a simple thing to do because our bread bill was just enormous. You are talking about £300 a week with various different breads and we thought once you get into a routine it is easy enough to do," he explains. The olive oil, meanwhile, is produced on an Italian farm owned by George Adams' mother.
Among the starters and mains, there is an extensive selection of seafood dishes like Salcombe crab spring rolls (£8) and fishcake with Loch Duart salmon, dill and parsley (£12). This again is a deliberate move as part of the refashioning of the menu, as Yeaman wanted to introduce more light and female-friendly dishes. The idea has clearly worked - the lobster ravioli with fresh pasta, lobster and shellfish bisque (£16) has already become one of the restaurant's best sellers, with the brigade of five producing around 50 portions a week.
Even heavier starters like foie gras have been reworked to make them lighter and cheaper. The foie gras parfait (£12) includes both foie gras and chicken livers blitzed in a Robot-Coupe with butter and cream, to offer diners a slightly less artery-clogging alternative to the real thing.
While much of the seafood is supplied by the Wright Brothers, Eighty-Six goes to Select for many of the rare breeds that make up the more hearty dishes like sherpherd's pie with Saltmarsh lamb (£12), designed to appeal to the male clientele.
More recently, the restaurant has also started opening for lunch on Saturdays and Sundays, offering traditional dishes like roast beef with Yorkshire pudding as well as eggs Benedict and American-style pancakes.
"The autumn menu is a way of testing things before fine-tuning them after Christmas and trying to get more of our own identity," Yeaman explains.
Despite the chic, opulent interior design by Design LSM, the company responsible for Galvin La Chapelle, that refashioned identity has undoubtedly made the food offering at Eighty-Six feel much more accessible and informal than it was before.
Sample dishes from the menu
Mussels in cider £7/£11 Wood pigeon on toast £8 Grilled king scallop £14
Steak frites - hanger 8oz £16 ild bass, Piedontese peppers, caponata, balsamic vinegar £15 Pappardelle, walnut, taleggio blue cheese £11
86 banana split £6 Apple and damson crumble £6 Chocolate brownie £6
Eighty-Six 86 Fulham Road, London SW3 6HR
Tel: 020 7052 9620