The Rushmore Group's first venture into restaurants, Redhook, took a while to bed in. But under group executive chef Andrew Lassetter, the restaurant is finally finding its feet. Neil Gerrard reports
Bar entrepreneur Jonathan Downey, whose company Rushmore Group is behind the Match bar concept, hasn't traditionally dabbled in stand-alone restaurants. But that changed with the opening in July 2010 of Redhook. Conceived as an independent venture with seafood and steaks at its heart, the restaurant had a rocky birth with one or two less than complimentary reviews immediately following its opening. Fortunately, that too has changed - critics who were willing to wait a little while for the operation to bed down were rewarded with much more satisfactory experiences.
And in September, Andrew Lassetter, who has spent the last several years working as a consultant, took up the post of group executive chef. His arrival has seen him offer a new approach to the menu, working on enhancing its seasonality by aiming to make subtle changes in ingredients each month depending on the best produce available.
In November, that means high-quality Canadian lobster (as opposed to Scottish) because it is in season and available at the best price. Redhook offers the lobster three ways - steamed with star anise, coriander seeds and orange, or broiled with roasted garlic, chilli oil and chives (both £20 for a half lobster or £38 whole). The grilled lobster is £22 for half or £40 whole.
Lassetter has also started to create more dishes using market fish brought in fresh that day. In November, that practice is represented by Anglesey sea bass with white truffle honey. "We butterfly the fish, pan-fry it with some white truffle honey, braised baby leeks and wild mushrooms, before cooking it off in a really rich Chardonnay," he explains. The result is a warming, Christmassy dish that still allows the flavours of the sea to come through.
Away from the seafood, the steaks on offer come from across the world - Australian Wagyu fillet (£90 for 300g), an American grain-fed New York striploin (£35 for 460g), and a variety of Scottish cuts. "Most steakhouses in London offer one main breed and different cuts. But we are giving variety so customers can learn about different styles of beef," he says.
Diners can ring the changes between American grain-fed beef, valued for its flavour and tenderness, and Scottish grass-fed beef, which is stronger on flavour thanks to the slower growth of the heifer, but perhaps has a less pleasing texture.
Any of the three scallop dishes, which include roasted diver scallops with crispy pork belly and smoked apple (£8), are probably the best-sellers, although the North American surf and turf - a 280g New York striploin and half a Canadian lobster (£40) - is also very popular.
And with 40 covers on average for lunch, and up to 80 in the evenings, Lassetter tries to spend as much time at Redhook as possible. "This is a flagship restaurant and it is one that needs a lot of attention," he says. To ensure that it gets that attention, he also has recruited Jose Azevedo, who previously worked at Richard Phillips at Chapel Down, as head chef.
SAMPLE DISHES FROM THE MENU
Oysters Rockefeller with spinach, cheese and breadcrumbs £1.50 each
Seared pan-fried diver scallops with chorizo, red pepper and parsley oil £9
Tea-smoked prawns with avocado, cucumber, peanuts and coriander £8
Indian Ocean surf and turf: 200g Australian Wagyu fillet and a giant flame-grilled Madagascar prawn £65
Sea bream with fennel, salsify and brown shrimp £14
Steak tartare, mustard, cornichons, capers, quail's egg £10/£16
Lime and lemon tart, marscapone, blueberries £5
Chocolate amaretto, Cognac, crème fraîche £6
Knickerbocker Glory with apples, raspberries, meringue, Devonshire cream, caramel, brandy snap £5