Stem, 5 Princes Street, W1B 2LF
WHAT? The much anticipated third restaurant from chef du jour Mark Jarvis, who blew everyone away with the universally acclaimed Anglo in Farringdon, and then repeated the trick with Neo Bistro on Oxford Street. He’s among the most highly regarded young (ish) chefs around, knocking together a totally assured, occasionally downright brilliant spin on that ever-elusive cuisine, “modern British”. Stem's cooking is overseen by head chef Sam Ashton-Booth, who proves to be every bit as accomplished as his boss.
WHERE? Princes Street, which is seconds away from Oxford Circus yet still has the sedate hush that settles over Mayfair after 8pm. At present you have to navigate around traffic works before you spot the unassuming little frontage on the ground floor of a Georgian townhouse. Like Jarvis’ other restaurants, the design is a lesson in restraint, a blank canvas against which the food can shine, with whitewashed walls and Tom Dixon-inspired elements like copper lamps and plum banquettes. Smart without being showy.
ORDER THIS: Scallops are so fundamentally delicious I try to steer clear of them when reviewing a restaurant, but Ashton-Booth’s version, accompanied by red carrots, mandarin and sea buckthorn, are pretty special. Cured squid with shiitake broth and sliced plum is also a killer starter, the squid lively and full of bite. A nice, pink sirloin with turnip and fermented lettuce is solid, but the plaice with grapes, king oyster mushroom and grilled hispi (a sweet variety of cabbage) is so good I have withdrawal symptoms just thinking about it. Order it all, essentially, then book to come back so you can try it all again.
ROOM FOR DESSERT? Barely, but the pear and tonka bean tart is a sound bet if you can squeeze it in.
BUSINESS OR PLEASURE? If you have a foodie client you’re comfortable enough with to dine in a relatively intimate environment then knock yourself out, but it’s not somewhere you want to be getting out the spreadsheets. This is a place to savour the food; don’t let work get in the way.
NEED TO BOOK? You might luck out and get a walk-in, but with food this good I wouldn't bank on it – go to stem-byneo.co.uk or call 0207 629 9283.
THE VERDICT: A great little restaurant, very much on a par with Jarvis’ previous ventures. It should be on the list for any self-respecting London gastronome.
ONE MORE THING… These guys really know their way around a wine list – there’s an impressive selection, but you should feel comfortable letting them do the deciding for you.