Chiswick’s latest fine dining treat

Timothy Barber
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Michael Nadra
6-8 Elliott Road, W4 1PE
020 8742 0766

Cost per person without wine: £40

BESIDES leafy streets, expensive houses and London’s finest neoclassical mansion, Chiswick is home to a slew of good eating establishments. Alongside French restaurant La Trompette with its two Michelin stars, you’ve got Gordon Ramsay’s smart gastropub The Devonshire and Soho House outpost High Road Brasserie among many others, while a second branch of Franco Manca, the Brixton hidey-hole that some claim does the best pizza in London, has recently opened there too.

In the middle of it all, a young chef named Michael Nadra has spent the last few years building up a solid reputation with his seafood restaurant Fish Hook, on a quiet street round the corner from Turnham Green tube station. The list of exalted places in which Nadra previously worked is as long as it’s impressive, and includes Gordon Ramsay’s Hospital Road flagship, Petrus under Marcus Wareing, Chez Bruce and The Square. Having decided it was time to get back to cooking things besides fish, he’s expanded the menu, refurbished the place and finally bunged his own name up above the door.

Good move.

The dining room is an intimate little place designed from a pallet of browns and greys, with dark banquettes, sultry lighting and bare wooden tables. Not that it’s overbearing – the atmosphere is cosy and relaxed, and it’s a good place for a natter. I visited with my sister having not seen her for a while, and we had plenty of time to catch up thanks to somewhat overlong gaps between courses. At some restaurants it would be a serious problem to have not reached the main course well over an hour after arriving, but any grumbles we might have had kept melting away each time our food arrived at the table – Michael Nadra is a chap who can really cook.

The modern European menu is broad, imaginative and extremely inviting. If you go a la Carte, starters are £8.50 and Mains £17, with the odd extra charge for a couple of the dishes. There’s also a £42 tasting menu, and a prix fixe offering (£16.30 for two courses, £19 for three) if you’re dining early.

After (quite a long time after) an amuse bouche of silky, bright green sweet pea and asparagus veloute, my sister started with a goats cheese soufflé that was light as a cloud and full of herby flavour, with a surrounding salad of peppery mixed leaves, toasted cashew nuts, croutons and pomegranate providing crunch and extra zing. I had a lasagnette of calf sweetbreads and foie gras – a small circle of pasta and meat layers that came in a pool of truffle veal jus and shitake mushrooms. This was a truly exciting dish, the soft luxury of the lasagnette, the earthiness of the mushrooms and the sweet, viscous, tarragon-infused tang of the jus coming together like an orchestral swell. It’s a sexy masterpiece of a starter, and I want to have it again, soon.

For her main course my sister chose the Scottish fillet steak, which came in juicy pink slices accompanied by spinach, chips and a generous smudge of sweet onion puree. I reckon when it comes to steak, chips should always be French fries for reasons of lightness and crunch. These were thick-cut, but were as light and crunchy as thick-cut chips could ever be, and they made my sister swoon. Trusting Nadra’s experience of four years perfecting his fish cooking, I went for grilled sea bass with buttered courgettes, saffron crab ravioli, basil and bisque sauce. Predictably, it was wonderful, the plump, buttery goodness of the fish and the supple and subtle ravioli proving a deep and lovely combination.

There was no drop off in quality with the desserts. A chocolate fondant with salted caramel and vanilla ice cream did everything a fondant should, namely glisten on the outside, melt on the inside, and taste like a darkly indulgent treat. I went for homemade icecreams and sorbets, all perfectly excellent, particularly the rich, thick chocolate.

Despite the high quality, there’s little that’s showy or forced about Michael Nadra’s cooking – it’s simple, intelligent and delectable.