You know when you’re watching a talent show on TV and you think the act is terrible yet they get a standing ovation, or the opposite happens, your favourite act is booed and you wonder if you’re watching the same programme? At the end of the day everything we experience comes down to personal preference, this also applies to any restaurant we eat in. Of course each of us have expectations or standards when it comes to food quality and service (even more so with that ‘discretionary’ service charge which has pretty much become a mandatory on the bill), but as novice writers (or dare we say bloggers) we still believe that a review of any restaurant should be written fairly, leaving the reader to make up their own mind.
An article on the recently opened Spring restaurant in London, by Camilla Long for The Sunday Times magazine ‘food and drink’ section, had so much venom in it (she even went as far to insult the 1547 historic building the restaurant is located in) that we had to wonder how hers and our dining experience could differ so greatly…could she really not have enjoyed Spring that much to give it such a bad critique? Truth be told we only got three quarters of the way through her article as by the end of it she was cleverly trying to fill space with meaningless words and pointless dribble. So, like Ms Long, Elldrew have an opinion and a platform to voice our views and with that in mind we would like to stand up, push back our chairs and give Spring a standing ovation, because we think it deserves it!
Reviewing the décor first of all, we loved it. Fresh, minimalistic with a clean colour palette, the main dining room is airy and light, a far cry from so many London restaurants that are dark and dimly lit or have latched onto the current ‘industrial’ interior trend; packing in as much chrome and exposed rusted metal fixtures as possible. The separate indoor garden room creates a decadent space with its large trees reaching to the glass ceiling, it reminded us of a scene from the 1998 movie adapt of ‘Great Expectations’.
The service is fantastic. A very knowledgeable Sommelier not only showed a complete understanding of Spring’s wine list but also told us that he liked to ask a few other questions to get an idea of the types of wines his customers enjoyed. He then matches personal preference with the right wine for the dish – this was so refreshing, normally the wine has already been paired with a course but by adding a personal taste preference, it created a whole new dimension.
The staff uniforms have had some negative comments and we will agree, at first, they do seem a little odd…it took us awhile to get our heads around them. The more you soak in the atmosphere the more they make sense. The uniforms use a mix of natural fibres and cool linens with cotton tops available in a range of stripped and block colours that the staff can choose to create their ‘uniform’. Not only does this give staff a chance to show their personality, but having a colour choice also helps to complement each staffs complexion. A brilliant idea when you look at each staff member, they are individually styled but part of a cohesive collection.
So how did the food fare? Well it’s not the first time we have used this word but it sums it up perfectly; delicious. Beautifully arranged with generous proportions. What really strikes you though is the amazing colours on the plate, and each bite was packed with loads of fresh flavours. Clearly Spring are on a winning formula with ‘Fern Verrow’, a biodynamic farm in Herefordshire that provide their fresh seasonal produce daily. Spring aims to provide honest, wholesome, produce driven dishes using the freshest of ingredients. Not only can you taste this in Spring’s dishes, you can see it.
Standout dishes of the day were a ravioli of onion squash and ricotta with marjoram butter, a slow cooked pork belly with chickpeas, come di rapas with a cumin salsa verde, and a selection of cold treats for the table; honey & walnut ice cream, red grape sorbet and burnt caramel with truffle chocolate ice cream.
And since Ms Long was so outraged by the total of her bill (we are not sure what she drank to bump the price up to £250 for two), our meal for two came in at £170 with starters, mains, a shared dessert, a bottle of wine, bottled water and service.
Well done Skye Gyngell*, Head Chef and Proprietor, you really have brought something new and very welcoming to London. Kudos for breathing life back into the 19th century drawing rooms of the new wing (well it’s not new, it’s just laid dormant for the last 150 years) iconic and gorgeous Somerset House (yes Camilla we said gorgeous). We are already planning our next visit.
*Skye Gyngell was awarded a Michelan star at Petersham Nurseries in Surrey and has become one of Britain’s most respected and acclaimed chefs. Originally from Australia, having trained in both Sydney, Paris and London, she is known for creating distinctly seasonal dishes that are inspired by what she sees growing and blossoming around her.
Somerset House, New Wing
Lancaster Place, London WC2R 1LA