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The Caterer

The Farm

18 November 2004
The Farm

If the combination of ex-Greenhouse chef Paul Merrett and gastropub darling Tom Etridge - recently rated one of London's most eligible bachelors by the Evening Standard - isn't intriguing enough, new pub and restaurant the Farm's opening strategy was guaranteed to grab your attention. Food, the restaurant's website said, would come at half-price for the first few weeks for prospective diners who could make a convincing farmyard noise. Monkeys and other non-farmyard animal impressions wouldn't do.

If you passed that test - a particularly fine impression of a sheep got me in - the first thing you'd have noticed is that this is no gastropub. Etridge may have cut his teeth at the Wells, but you won't find bangers and mash on the menu here, and the restaurant (downstairs from the pub bit) is more smart dining room than wooden benches and ordering from the bar.

The second point that should be cleared up is that the Farm is also a new departure for Merrett. Four chefs in the kitchen (the brigade is six-strong) do not a Michelin-sized team make, and Merrett is the first to admit his new setup has meant a steep learning curve.

"At the Greenhouse, we had 20 chefs, a large kitchen and all the equipment you could ask for," he says. "I thought that after having cooked to a Michelin standard I could go to something not aiming that high and find it fairly easy. Now I know that's not true, and I was pompous to think it. We have to work hard."

Serving an average of 90 covers each evening in the 78-seat restaurant, this isn't surprising, particularly as the menu is still a fairly sophisticated affair. As all his team have worked at the Greenhouse at one stage or another, it was natural that many dishes were transported from there.

However, the chef is adamant that the menu is still far from defined - and adds that nothing is precious. An infinitely pleasurable warm chocolate fondant with peanut butter ice-cream (£5) adapted from the Greenhouse has thus, Merrett unceremoniously announces, "bitten the dust". It's partly down to a more realistic take on what is possible from a smaller brigade, and the wish to make the Farm a local restaurant where regular customers can always find something new.

Starters at the moment include Jerusalem artichoke soup with roasted Scottish diver scallop (£7), which Merrett stresses will be available only while the ingredients are. A best seller in the mains department, meanwhile, is a chargrilled rib of Scottish beef with sauce b‚arnaise (£18).

As well as about six mains on the printed menu, there's also a range of daily specials, from which Merrett says a recent dish of braised ox cheeks, daube de boeuf, Brussels tops and mash (£13) has proved a hit.

And, if there's room left after all that meat, despite the absence of the fondant, it would probably be worth tasting the chocolate fudge brownie with white chocolate coffee ice-cream (£5) - a popular classic. For the more adventurous there's an intriguing mango and praline pav‚ with apricot sorbet (£5), or a pineapple tarte tatin with basil ice-cream (£5). There are also light bites like Italian charcuterie with buffalo mozzarella (£9) or yogurt-spiced chicken skewers (£5.50).

On Sundays, the atmosphere loosens up and average spend drops from about £40 in the evening to £8, as the restaurant changes its tone with slightly lower prices and a more relaxed menu. Starters range from a rather kitsch prawn cocktail (£6.50) to Cumberland sausage, flat mushroom and cheese on toast (£6.50), while mains focus on a classic roast chicken or beef (about £11) or home-made chargrilled beefburgers with lettuce and tomato and mayonnaise (£10).

Desserts are similarly comfort-focused, featuring a blackberry and apple crumble with custard, or sticky toffee pudding with banana ice-cream (both £5). n

The Farm
18 Farm Lane
London
SW6 1PP
Tel: 020 7381 3331
www.thefarmfulham.co.uk

What's on the menu - Pan-fried slice of foie gras from Les Landes with toasted brioche and apple jelly, £9.50

  • Deep-fried goats' cheese with serrano ham, pea cress and white truffle honey, £7
  • Grilled fillet of line-caught mackerel on a vegetable broth with white beans, clams and pesto, £12.50
  • Breast of guinea fowl with herb stuffing, potato pancake, lentil and beetroot jus, £15.50
  • Warm cinnamon doughnuts, mixed berry jam, vanilla ice-cream, £5
  • Pineapple tarte tatin, basil ice-cream, £5
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