Daniel Humm has successfully imported his deceptively simple style of cooking from the kitchen of New York's Eleven Madison Park to London's Claridge's. Janet Harmer reports
The much-anticipated new restaurant from New York-based celebrated chef Daniel Humm at London's Claridge's hotel has enjoyed something of a lengthy gestation period.
Davies and Brook, named in the American fashion after the intersection of the two streets on which the hotel stands, was first mooted as a concept in the final days of Gordon Ramsay's 12-year tenure at Claridge's, which came to an end in 2013. The space was then filled by Fera, headed by Simon Rogan.
After Rogan's departure in 2017, Fera continued to operate until the end of 2018, when the rumours of Humm's impending arrival at the hotel began to circulate. Those rumours eventually turned into reality and the 83-seat Davies and Brook opened early last month.
For Swiss-born Humm, Davies and Brook marks a return to Claridge's, having previously worked at the hotel as a 15-year-old commis chef. In the intervening years he has achieved worldwide recognition as chef-owner of Make It Nice, the company behind the three-Michelin-starred Eleven Madison Park in New York and restaurants across the NoMad collection of hotels in New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
While Humm intends to spend regular stints in the kitchen – Davies and Brook is not simply a restaurant to which he has licensed his name – the day-to-day culinary operation is run by executive chef Dmitri Magi. Originally from Kazakhstan, Magi is well-versed in Humm's deceptively simple culinary style, having moved to the US 10 years ago. "Dishes are seemingly effortless, but the reality is that a lot of work is involved with layers of flavours throughout everything – flavours that blow your mind," explains Magi.
A dish offering variations on aubergine with coriander and roasted garlic is a good case in point. Its lengthy preparation starts with the vegetable being cut in half and brined for 20 minutes before being dried for 24 hours. Next, it is marinaded in soy sauce, vinegar, salt and kombu. At the point of service, the aubergine is filled with two purées, aubergine and garlic, and then roasted and served with discs of white aubergine for texture. The result is a dish packing an intense, sweet-sour umami punch.
The dish is available on the warm section of the four-course, à la carte menu for £98, offered at both lunch and dinner alongside a seven-course tasting menu at £145 per head. A three-course à la carte menu for £72 is also available at lunch.
On the à la carte menu is a dish of dry-aged duck, honey and lavender glazed with beetroot and sauce civet (pictured top), created by Humm 20 years ago and now regarded as his signature. The dry aging tenderises the meat and crisps the skin, which is rubbed with honey and a crushed spice mix of Szechuan pepper, lavender, coriander and cumin. "We simply roast the duck; there is no sous vide, it is an old school classic. We serve it with a hearty sauce made from the duck blood, chicken jus, pink peppercorns and mustard."
While the presentation of most dishes is straightforward with minimal embellishments, the celeriac course on the tasting menu provides a theatrical opportunity. After being braised in a pig's bladder in a water bath for a couple of hours, it is carried aloft through the restaurant inside the inflated bladder before being served with two purées of celeriac and truffle. "The technique is adapted from Paul Bocuse, who cooked chicken in a pig's bladder," says Magi. "It is all about enhancing the flavour of the vegetable."
When it comes to dessert, there is no written menu. Instead, the server explains the choice of four dishes to the guests. It is an extension of the way Eleven Madison Park, which has no written menus at all, operates, with the idea being to create interaction between customers and the restaurant team.
For a contrast of flavours and textures, milk ice-cream served with bee pollen and chunks of oat shortbread is a winner, offering a mix of salt and sweet, crunch and soft.
The pared-back interior by architect Brad Cloepfil provides an ideal setting for a menu that is classic and restrained, with each dish maximising the essence of every component ingredient. No superfluous, extraneous flourishes are found here.
From the menu
- Roasted beetroot, sheep's milk yogurt, quinoa falafel, cumin
- Bass ceviche, avocado, cucumber, shrimp oil
- Artichoke variations, broth, mushrooms, fennel
- Poached lobster, winter squash, bisque, saffron
- Black cod roasted with Napa cabbage, miso, kohlrabi
- Grilled venison, sweet potato, caramelised onion, juniper
- Apple cider doughnut, mulled wine ice-cream
- Mandarin salad, sheep's milk yogurt, jasmine, meringue
Four courses, £98
Davies and Brook, Claridge's, Brook Street, Mayfair, London W1K 4HR
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