Fallow, Haymarket: London restaurant review | Food


Early on in our dinner at Fallow on London’s Haymarket, a waiter delivers a mushroom parfait to our table and then points up at a shelf suspended from the industrially scaffolded ceiling. Gnarled, fungally embellished logs are sitting up there. “And we even grow some of the mushrooms for this dish right here at the restaurant,” he says. Even allowing for the restaurant’s noisily proclaimed commitment to sustainability, this could be a profoundly annoying outbreak of virtue signalling, were it not for one thing. That mushroom parfait is astonishing. The furious blizzard of shitake and oyster is as smooth as velvet stroked the right way. It’s as deep as a Samuel Beckett play, and as rich as Rockefeller. It surprises me not at all that dairy has been involved, along with separated eggs: yolks for the fat, whipped whites for the aeration.

It is glorious to eat but could also, I think, replace my Kiehl’s Facial Fuel habit as a moisturiser; just rub it in and keep rubbing. Astonishingly though, I believe it is pound for pound more expensive than the Kiehl’s. I like to think that the £17 price tag for this small plate of mushroom pâté is partly to recoup the significant research and development costs, like it was some new pharmaceutical. Certainly, it makes me feel better about the world. So no, Fallow is not cheap, but it really is all kinds of “Gosh” and “Wow” and “Oh my!”

Cod’s head with sriracha butter

Chefs Jack Croft and Will Murray met at Dinner by Heston, which is interesting because prior to their mushroom parfait, the best I’d tried had been the vegetarian alternative to Blumenthal’s famed meat fruit. This really is better (and, as it happens, cheaper). The two chefs bonded over a desire to elevate the humble and use the bits that others throw away. An extended pop-up led eventually last autumn to this hard-edged corner site: there are polished floors and red leather banquettes, marble counters and, dangling from the ceiling, bundles of kelp and heather. In the open kitchen, flames leap.

On one of those excruciatingly hot evenings the glass walls have been pulled back and there is a tumble and buzz about the place. It reminds me of those New York restaurants which reject the arch formality and curtsying of the sort that usually frames cooking of this quality, preferring instead to knock out plate after plate of the good stuff. Some of it is delivered by the extremely knowledgable waiters, the rest by the chefs themselves.

Corn cob slices

One particular strength is seasonings. Slices of corn cob, curled in on themselves from a long swim in the deep fat fryer that has made the kernels almost toffee-like, come dusted with a salty-sour kombu-boosted mix. It is a bar snack wearing a zoot suit and spats, to be eaten as if they were baby-back ribs. A similarly addictive salty-sour seasoning has been used on long-smoked beef short ribs, in a sauce overcoat, that come away from the bone with a tug of the teeth. Intriguingly, two fat ribs are only £12, which is not far off the retail price. Yes, the pricing can seem a little uneven at times.

Among these early dishes there is a “tartiflette” flatbread. It’s a pillowy, heat-inflated disc of crisp crusted brioche laden with slabs of reblochon cheese, caramelised onions and cornichon: all the ingredients, bar the potatoes, that the reblochon trade body came up with when looking for a dish with which to flog their product back in the 80s. Next comes picked white crab on a crunchy salad of shredded cabbage. Underneath is a smooth purée of jerusalem artichoke. Poured around this heap of loveliness is a toasty chilli broth.

Tartiflette flatbread

Do try their take on leeks vinaigrette which, unlike the classic, is served warm. The logs of leek have been smoked until soft. The dish is encouragingly drenched in a thick vinaigrette then topped with fried breadcrumbs. It’s a hefty portion, as it should be for £22, to be shared and fought over with friends. The menu is strong on non-meat dishes like this, although it does have a list of cuts from one-time dairy cows; animals that have given their all to the milk business and finally given their all once again. If you don’t approve of dairy or meat eating, none of this narrative will change your mind. But the idea of animals which have served in one way, being served in another makes sense.

The dish that has garnered most attention and which will split the crowd is the cod’s head with sriracha butter sauce. It’s as described: a cod’s head, the bit of the fish that might otherwise be thrown away, eye intact, slow-grilled until the skin has taken on a sweet chewiness, then drenched in a tangerine-coloured sauce with the light kick of chilli and garlic. You are invited to pick around to find the meat – not just the familiar cheeks, but those bits around the jawline and the eye socket and beyond. I find myself feeling about my own well-upholstered face. There really might be some good eating there. There are two views here: this is either the very worst of overwrought London restaurant hipsterism, or there’s the opinion of those who have tried it which is that it’s a bloody good, delicious and totally involving idea.

Copper-coloured crème’: tart

Of the desserts the best of those we try is a tart deep-filled with a copper-coloured crème made with whey that has been slowly caramelised over almost three days. Essentially, it’s a grown-up version of condensed milk. A chocolate mousse with various bits of mushroom and black truffle feels like the kitchen becoming a little too clever for its own good. I find myself muttering the word “interesting” over it. That’s never a good thing.

My only other criticism is of the comprehensive wine list, which starts at £36 a bottle and has nothing below £9 a glass. It makes the entry point for an already less-than-cheap restaurant unnecessarily more expensive. It is possible to find good wines at less excruciating prices for those on a budget. This aside, Fallow really is serving some of the best food I’ve tried in London right now. The sustainability stuff is great. Let’s put the mushroom show on, right here in the barn. Let’s use the bits others chuck away. But none of that matters if your pricey dinner isn’t memorable. At Fallow, it really is.

News bites

Chef Adam Reid of The French at the Midland Hotel in Manchester has announced a new, rather less fancy venture in the city. The Butty Shop will be a take-away food outlet at the redeveloped New Century Hall, a self-styled ‘social destination’ inside a Grade II listed building on Mayes Street. Reid’s all-day menu will apparently focus on traditional sandwiches. It plans ‘to bring the British butty back to life, with classic Northern flavours built on the memories of childhood visits to the bakery.’ There will be pickled eggs.

The Brazilian chef Alberto Landgraf, who holds a brace of Michelin stars at Oteque in Rio de Janeiro, is bringing his food back to London, where he started his career with the likes of Gordon Ramsay and Tom Aikens. Landgraf, whose menu is particularly focused on both seafood and open fire cooking, will launch Bossa on Vere Street, in a space beneath the Brazilian consulate.

And commiserations with Cardiff, which is to get an Ivy Asia, serving its peculiar menu of vaguely Japanese-inspired dishes, inside the St David’s shopping centre. In the summer of 2021, Ivy owner Richard Caring had to delete a promotional video for his new Chelsea Ivy Asia and apologise for ‘any offence caused’ by what were denounced by various groups as racial stereotypes. That said, Ivy Asia in Manchester still has a space for private dining called the Geisha Room.

Fallow, 2 St James’s Market, Haymarket, London SW1Y 4AH. Snacks and small plates £7.50-£22, large plates £16-£40, desserts £9-£16, wines from £36

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