From time to time I fail to record restaurant visits here and this is usually for four reasons. Perhaps I have already written about them and am visiting again, they are bland, bad or I had such a wonderful time, I made no notes, took no photos and can type up nothing of note other than "ooohhh lovely". From time to time though, a meal can fall into one of these categories but provoke a comment for another reason.
Launched by Angela Hartnett in '08 with a predominantly Italian menu (hence the adjoining deli Nonna's) whilst she was also creating Murano to the west in Mayfair, Colin Buchan has taken on the role and all trace of his predecessor are now removed from the website.
The menu is described as Mediterranean which in this case seems to touch broadly on Italy, Spain and France, though not specifically the mediterranean parts of any of them, so no bouillabaisse, no Greek or Turkish touches. Main course prices with the exception of the pizza excepted can equal those in the Savoy Grill or Claridges so expectations are high.
The bread was good, service very competent and the dining room at the back of the venue pleasant and well lit. Confit of lamb with carrots and puree was well presented and cooked though a little richer than expected whilst the Ice cream elicited no complaints.
There is an issue however. The layout of a bar at the front with a dining room at the rear means this feels like a very well decorated gastropub but doesn't focus on the typicity of it's food enough to merit the title. Nor can it be thought of as a Ramsey twist on a traditional English pub. For this, visit the The Narrow. The cuisine is perfectly competent however the menu seems confused as does the identity of the venue.
Perhaps the fault lies with reviewer here. Possibly a walk north from Regents Park tube rather than west from Camden Town may have encouraged the elegant townhouse restaurant ambience the website advertises but I suspect the departure of Angela Hartnett has robbed it of the culinary element of this approach. And here is my point. To impress a restaurant requires a focused identity. This can exist whether the food is simple and straightforward such as Maze Grill, a tribute to it's history such as the Savoy Grill or a destination restaurant. In this case it seems absent.
So a lukewarm review here because Gordon Ramsey, for all the criticism he has received, runs some great restaurants. One can't help but feel that the inspiration for the venue has moved on and given the Mayfair prices three miles east of where they belong, there is little to prompt a return.
Ondine - a restaurant review [subscription]
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