Philip Howard’s latest venture, Elystan Street, is already making waves in Chelsea, as Lady Barbara Judge discovered… twice!
I have been a fan of chef and restauranteur Philip Howard for many years. The Square, his excellent and acclaimed restaurant, has been known as one of the best in the West End since I arrived in London in 1993. I was, therefore, surprised to learn than not only had he sold The Square, but that he was opening a new restaurant in Chelsea; Elystan Street.
Of course, I wanted to see it immediately, and fortunately, I was able to get a table on not one, but two, occasions. On the most recent visit, I had Elystan Street’s lovely Sunday lunch. The restaurant was, not surprisingly, filled with local families all enjoying traditional Sunday fare. My friend, Candace Johnson, a well known satellite entrepreneur, had flown in from France so that we could try this restaurant together, as she is a foodie like me.
The cuisine at Elystan Street was, as predicted, delicious, and Candace and I were definitely pleased that she had made the trip. For the first course, she had a salad of roasted vegetables, with cashew hummus, curry oil and shallots. The vegetables were delicious, but even better was the wonderful dressing that brought out the flavours so that you could taste them individually as well as in combination. I had chosen a crab salad, which was also lovely, with beautiful white crab meat encased in a creamy dressing, together with a perfectly ripe, sliced avocado. This dish was so sumptuous that it could have been a main course or a light lunch.
Among our mains, the obvious winner was the traditional Sunday roast beef. Now I usually find this dish a bit too traditional (read boring and overcooked), and extremely dull fare. This rendition of roast beef was, however, just right, perfectly cooked, medium-rare, off-the-bone, and in an exquisite round portion with a delicious sauce. It was accompanied by a wonderful Yorkshire pudding filled with marinated beef in a red wine sauce. The Yorkshire pudding was not only beautiful to look at, but amazingly moist and delicious as well, and it, too, could have been a light lunch or a main course on its own.
The desserts were also wonderful. I liked the smashed brownie sundae, which came in a glass and was a unique presentation of a traditional chocolate sundae. The treacle tart that Candace had was even better. Both were served with home-made vanilla ice cream, which perfectly set off the delicate flavours of the brownie and the tart.
I would also have loved to have tried many other mouth-watering desserts on the menu, but unfortunately, by this time I was entirely sated and didn’t have any room.
The week before this I had also dined at Elystan Street with another friend of mine. This occasion was also lovely, and I would particularly like to mention the appetisers we had that evening, which were definitely worth trying. The tartare of beef with artichoke truffle beetroot and radish was one of the most interesting I have ever had.
It was only slightly surpassed by the roast calf sweetbread with truffle autumn slaw and seeded nut butter. As is often the case, the appetisers were amazing, and another time I thought I might just order them all and skip the rest of the meal. On this occasion, the mains were also outstanding. We had the roast fillet of John Dory with crushed butternut, black rice, pickled walnuts, trompettes and sage, and the roast grouse with celeriac and pear purée, root vegetables and elderberries. It seemed to me that it was important to eat these while in season, and it was worth it.
These two meals were both serious cooking, but we would expect no less from Philip Howard. I wish Philip the best of luck with his new endeavour. I believe it is already a success, as booking a table is certainly not easy, and the venture has only just started out. I really feel fortunate to have had a chance to dine twice at such an early stage. I look forward to becoming a regular, especially on a Sunday when it is always hard to find a serious place in which to do business, with good food that has that rarely-found advantage – reasonably quiet, so you can hear your dining companions.
If there is anyone I know who has that same problem, this is the answer, but don’t tell too many people right away or we will never get a table!
Lady Barbara Judge is currently the Chair of the Institute of Directors and has held many posts across the corporate and charitable sector, including Chairman of the Pension Protection Fund, commissioner of the US Securities and Exchange Commission, and chairman of the UK Atomic Energy Authority. Lady Barbara has always had an abiding love for food, and her frequent international business travels have enabled her to indulge this passion in many top restaurants across the globe. (Lady Barbara Judge pays all of her own expenses.)