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The Square restaurant review

The Square restaurant review

by Great British Chefs Thursday, July 4, 2013

A few weeks ago Sara Zavagno went for dinner at Phil Howard’s two Michelin star restaurant The Square in Mayfair. She reviews her experience for Great British Chefs.

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My first experience of The Square was the set lunch menu on a Saturday and I have to admit I wasn’t as blown away as I had expected to be, though with hindsight, perhaps I ordered the wrong dish. Having heard great things about The Square, I was eager to return for dinner and sample the a la carte menu.

My friend and I were surprised at how few diners there were when we arrived but this was probably because it was a Sunday evening. The décor is elegantly understated with polished wooden flooring, soft lighting and neutral walls punctuated with bursts of colour from the carefully selected pieces of modern art.

The meal started off excellently with an amuse bouche of the restaurant’s signature dish Sauté of Scottish Langoustine Tails with Parmesan Gnocchi and an Emulsion of Potato and Truffle. To say it was exquisite would be an understatement; the sweet taste of langoustine was balanced out by the earthy girolles purée, the singular gnocco was delicate and delightfully cheesy, the crispy shallot garnish added texture and the truffle emulsion made my taste buds sing (although it has to be said, truffle is my gastronomic Achilles’ heel!).

For my starter I opted for the Terrine of Chicken, Foie Gras and Girolles with Grilled Spring Onions, Hazelnut Oil and a Chicken Liver Cream. The smooth girolles and foie gras were a welcome texture amidst the chicken and the spring onions used to garnish added a much-needed sweetness. Despite being a good, solid dish, for me it paled in comparison to the sublime langoustine amuse bouche.

My lovely dining companion Grace chose the Velouté of Nettles with Chicken Oysters, Quail Eggs, Almonds and Girolles. The velouté was a beautiful vibrant green colour and in that respect reminded me a little of Heston Blumenthal’s savoury snail porridge. Although I have drunk nettle tea, I have never eaten anything with nettle in it before and was unsure what to expect. The flavour of the velouté itself was actually quite subtle, allowing the meaty chicken oysters and generous helping of truffle to shine. Grace chose to have it without the quail eggs but I would have been interested to see if they would have added a different dimension to this very nice dish. Given another opportunity I would have picked the Tartare of English Rose Veal with Violet Artichokes and Summer Truffle as my starter since that also caught my eye on the menu.

Between our starter and main course we were served a Mediterranean-inspired amuse bouche of Grilled Red Mullet with Sardine Vinaigrette, Violet Potatoes, Baby Artichokes and Aioli. The red mullet was perfectly cooked and had lovely crispy skin; the artichokes tasted almost pickled and were a clever counterpoint to the sweet peppers and creamy, rich aioli.

My main course of Roast Calves Sweetbreads with Bay Milk Purée, Buttered Girolles, Potato Galettes and Almonds was delicious and enhanced by the addition of cauliflower and prosciutto, which added a saltiness that complemented the sweetbreads.

Grace was equally pleased with her stunning looking dish; Herb Crusted Saddle of Lamb with Shallot Purée, Artichokes, Balsamic Vinegar and Olive Oil. She kindly let me taste some and it tasted every bit as good as it looked; the herb crust on the lamb was bursting with flavour, the potatoes were wonderfully velvety and the sundried tomatoes gave the dish little pockets of sweet acidity. Our only criticism was that there was not enough accoutrement for the large portion of lamb; in particular it would have been nice to have more shallot purée.

As a great cheese lover, I was extremely looking forward to sampling The Square’s legendary cheese trolley and I have to say it entirely lived up to expectation! I had goats’ cheese Carré du Tarn; the pungent yet creamy Epoisses, a favourite of Napoleon’s; Fourme d’Ambert, a blue cheese which is one of the oldest cheeses in France, Lavort, a semi-hard sheep’s cheese and Grand Causses, a hard sheep’s milk cheese with a nutty, fruity flavour. I was quite literally in cheese heaven and fully intend to go out and buy some of these.

The service was excellent throughout and the team were very attentive, so attentive that when Grace was torn between two desserts, our server ensured that we had one of the dishes as our amuse bouche, a very nice touch. So we got to sample the Brillat-Savarin Cheesecake with Red Currant Glaze and Sheep’s Yoghurt Ice Cream, which was lovely and quite possibly the nicest cheesecake I’ve ever had. In fact, I ended up preferring it to my chosen dessert of Dark Chocolate Soufflé with Walnut Ice Cream, Cookies and Cream.

Those who know me will confirm this is rare but I found the soufflé too large, given how sweet the dish was. As it was made using dark chocolate, I was expecting it to be somewhat bitter but it was very sweet and needed the walnut ice cream placed in the centre to balance out the flavour. It was accompanied by a lovely but also rather sweet cookies and cream macaron. A very well executed soufflé but I would have preferred more bitterness.

The meal finished with some fruity petit four lollies; apple, cider and vanilla jelly, hibiscus and pineapple, grapefruit confit, mandarin pâte de fruit and my personal favourite, passion fruit Swiss roll. Luckily for me, Grace was stuffed so I got to eat most of them twice! There were also some wickedly indulgent chocolate and salted caramel truffles which even I didn’t manage to finish, so full was I at this point.

We thoroughly enjoyed our meal and are both looking forward to returning to The Square…preferably before the langoustine is taken off the menu!

 
 
 

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