Lindsay House

February 5, 2007

21 Romilly Street; W1D; 020 7439 0450; 2006) (for two updates the last in November 2007, see below)

Since our very rainy morning was going to be spent at the National Gallery, I looked for restaurants in the area; and admittedly the search was a half-hearted one. Didn’t search Michelin Guide, nor any other books, I just looked in the local weekly magazines that were on our coffee table. Lindsay House was one that appealed and there was another on Frith Street, around the corner. Since we really knew nothing about either, we chose not make a reservation but to take our chances, after we checked them out. Both shows at the Natonal Gallery were terrific: “Cezanne in Britain” (even though he never did visit) and “Manet to Picasso”, so we had worked up a nice hunger. Winding around the small streets behind the Gallery, we found Romilly Street and Lindsay House.lindsay-exterior.jpg

The discreet brass sign and a menu were all that indicated this was the place we were looking for. The menu looked good and our peek inside opened into a small, but elegant dining room. We then walked to our next choice and for whatever reason, it didn’t seem as appealing. Back at Lindsay House, we rang the bell and were welcomed to their attractive dining room.

As Bernard, the maitre d’hotel, gave us our menus, he explained that they had recently changed the format at lunch. It used to be a tasting menu, as in the evening; but they found that most people didn’t want to take that much time, so they pulled a few of the courses from the tasting menu and feature them on the lunch menu. lindsay-house-2.gif

Gary decided on three smaller plates and Varian on one small plate and one larger plate. Out came our amuse bouche, a rectangular plate with some tiny cups on it. One of the cups had lightly breaded and fried pigs’ ears to be dipped in a horseradish sauce, two had jellied pigs’ brains with a macedoine of vegetables, and another had some paper thin garlic bread. Wow! These were so good and so tender, that we wanted to keep eating them. Now we knew we were in a serious restaurant. The bread on the table, house-made, was earthy and delicious, especially topped with the dark yellow, sweet butter that is a close to hand-churned as one can get these days.

Gary‘s first plate arrived. Six stunningly fresh oysters on the half shell (£8), garnished with fried shallots and Sherry vinegar mignonette sauce. Both of us then had frogs’ legs tempura (£12) with fried parsley and garlic. These were extremely tasty but a few were slightly underdone. Varian’s rabbit (£14) had an intensity that was very special. It was boneless, stuffed with tarragon and shallots and served rolled around spinach and pancetta, cooked quite crispy on the outside but meltingly soft inside. Gary’s Clare Island Salmon (£7) with its blini and a potato cylinder, caramelized on the top, was perfection.

The cheeses of the day were two goat cheese (£10), one called Tymsborough Ragstone from Wales, I believe, and the other an Irish Cachel Bleu from Mileene, both served at just the right stage of ripeness with thin crackers on the side. Our 2004 Saumur-Champigny (£52), a Cabernet Franc from Chateau de Villeneuve, which Bernard recommended was very much to our taste as he had ascertained from our answers to some questions before he suggested it. Later, he offered a glass of banyuls. The restaurant is housed in what was a mid 18th century town house, with three small dining rooms, seating about 40 people. Original art graces the walls. Tables are nicely spaced to give each one privacy, and the atmosphere, while friendly, is very calm and almost subdued.

Back at home, I looked up the restaurant and learned that the chef/owner, Richard Corrigan, has received one Michelin star as well as numerous awards. It all began in 1996 when he launched a restaurant called “Searcey’s at the Barbicon”. He then formed a business partnership with Searcey’s and together they went on to open “Lindsay House” in 1997, “The Gherkin” in 2004 and “Bentley’s” in 2006.

The chef who was cooking the day we ate there was not only very good, except for the underdone frogs’ legs, but also very friendly. He chatted with us on the way out. We learned that one of the reasons they receive such wonderful vegetables, fish, meats and dairy is that Corrigan true to his roots spends a lot of time with suppliers in Ireland and the country. In fact, last summer, his vacation consisted of fishing with the fishermen for two weeks and then cooking dinner for them every night. Next time we will go for dinner and the tasting menu.

(Revisit in January 2007) Having vowed to return for dinner next time we were in London, we did just that. We were seated upstairs where every table was full of casually dressed English people out for a great evening.

As promised, we opted for the tasting menu with wine (£110 per person) and were very pleased. The highlight was the second course—mackerel tartar, roast mackerel and smoked mackerel with a truly sublime beetroot foam. It was amazing. The accompanying wine, a 2005 Lugana Ca’ Dei Frati from the Veneto was a perfect pairing. Rather than a chunk or chunks of cheese, they made a blue cheese into a very creamy bavarois and served it with a hazelnut and celery salad for an inspired presentation. With it we continued drinking the 2000 Rioja Reserva from Rincon de Baroja that we had with the roast wild duck of the previous course.

(Revisit on November 22, 2007) We decided to celebrate Thanksgiving at this favorite, and it was a great decision. The clientele were all properly dressed, ties and jackets no less, and the staff was friendly and professional. Because we were there at lunch, there was no tasting menu, but the choices were festive enough for us. Gary began with a pan-roasted tranche of foie gras served with apple, lime syrup and sorrel (£17).

Varian enjoyed the crispy oysters with suckling pig sausage and dandelion and sour apple puree (£12). Our friend, Michael, loved the celery and walnut soup with Stilton (£9). Both men chose the clay baked teal served with Clementine and endive marmalade (£20), and found it OK but may need a little more polishing to time the cooking properly. This was its first day on the menu. Varian’s partied with bread pudding and salsify and sweet corn was great (£18). Desserts was a superb warm apple tart and the farmhouse cheese was perfect.

We started with a Meursalt Maxime (£63.50) and continued with a Chianti Classico (£49), both of which were lovely as well they should be at those prices. With the pound at two dollars, the only way to enjoy this expensive city is to pretend that the pound sign is in fact just a dollar sign. Then everything is tolerable.

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