A palace of calm after the storm

Timothy Barber
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1 Kinnerton St, SW1X 8EA
020 7592 1609

Cost per person without wine: £55

IT’S hard to believe that so tranquil a restaurant as this was born of an immense falling out. We all know the saga. For years Pétrus in Belgravia’s Berkeley Hotel was one of the shiniest jewels in Gordon Ramsay’s considerably-adorned crown. But after disagreements between Ramsay and its chef Marcus Wareing went nuclear, Wareing relaunched the restaurant at the Berkeley in his own name, and Ramsay was left looking for a new home for Pétrus and its sensational cellar of Chateau Pétrus vintages.

He found it a few minutes walk away, down sleepy Kinnerton Street off Belgrave Square. It’s not quite near enough for Wareing and Ramsay to lob eggs and swear words at each other over the roof tops, but it’s not far off. The building is unassuming, but the interior beautiful. Arcing screens turn the square room into a sensuous swirl, smart lighting keeps things intimate, and the tables form a ring around the room’s star attraction, a cylindrical wine cellar. It’s a peculiar, futuristic installation, but it works rather well, somehow not dominating what’s a pretty small dining room.

It’s run by the impossibly polished restaurant director Jean-Philippe Susilovic, the Belgian charmer who, as well as running the old Pétrus, has made a bit of a name for himself on Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen programmes. The service he supervises is relaxed, welcoming and effortlessly professional. Another Ramsay protégé, Sean Burbidge, now runs the kitchen along with the restaurant group’s executive chef Mark Askew. You can choose a five course chef’s menu for £65, go a la carte for £55 for three courses, or if you go for lunch, choose three courses for £25, which is value that shouldn’t be sniffed at. Before all that, though, there’s an amuse bouche of silky white onion and chive veloute to enjoy, served in a white porcelain onion. It’s sublime.

For a starter I had pan-fried slices of scallops interlaced with crisply breaded leaves of caulifower in an anchovy-and-caper beurre noisette – it was flawless. My friend’s roasted pigeon breast was slow-cooked and served warm and bloody with sweetcorn and wild mushrooms. It was tremendously smooth, and oozed flavour.

Next up for me was a roasted beef fillet that was perfectly pink and supple, its tenderness offset nicely by a rich and rustic wine sauce, and a richer and still more rustic mulch of braised shin which lurked beneath. The other main was a rather splendid take on surf ‘n’ turf: slices of gleaming pink lobster tail resting on a juicy strip of pork belly, with baby gem lettuce and a cider sauce. It was clever, and beautifully executed. Our veg, spuds dauphinoise and three kinds of buttery carrots (purple, yellow and normal), came in pretty little silver pots from which we could serve ourselves.

Puds weren’t quite as good. A cricket ball-sized chocolate sphere melted to reveal ice cream and honeycomb beneath – a fun trick but the result was a chocolate slick that was overpoweringly rich. I was intrigued by bitter chocolate beer parfait – made from chocolate beer from the Meantime brewery, with a froth on top to resemble a pint – but it was fussy, and tasted more bitter than chocolate.

Those were minor quibbles though. What’s impressive about the place – about the room, the service and the food – is how unfussy it all seems. Calmness might not be a word you’d ascribe to Ramsay the TV character, but at Pétrus it’s the key ingredient.