Restaurant Review: Thirty Six By Nigel Mendham, Mayfair

12:07 30 October 2012

Sea bass with all things nicoise

Sea bass with all things nicoise

Archant

Prepare to devour a sumptuous feast at the ‘James Bond’ hotel

It’s easy to see why Thirty Six By Nigel Mendham restaurant has just been awarded three AA Rosettes for its outstanding service and food.

Located in the basement of Dukes St James boutique hotel in Mayfair, the presentation of the modern British cuisine was stunning, and tasted as good as it looked.

Not only that, the friendly attentive staff went out of their way to make our experience perfect.

My two dining companions and I began our night in the hotel’s legendary bar, Duke’s, which used to be a haunt for James Bond author Ian Fleming, and is said to be the inspiration for his classic line, ‘shaken, not stirred’.

We soaked up its bustling historic ambience, before moving downstairs to the intimate and cosy dining room of the hotel’s restaurant Thirty Six.

Simply decorated with plush pink cushioned chairs and mottled peach candle holders, the flickering light cast a warm glow around the room, which was filled with a low chattering buzz.

We ordered the three course a la carte menu, priced at £60 including tea or coffee, and were pleasantly surprised when Bart, our attentive and charming server, presented us with a platter of canapés to warm up our taste buds.

Sumptuous smoked haddock arancini rice balls with a mayonnaise-style sauce gribiche had a hint of aniseed, while the savoury choux Gougeres were delicious, filled with caramelised onions and goats’ cheese.

A spoonful of smoked salmon from the famous Forman’s East London factory was served on a bed of sour cream, and topped with caviar - testimony to Mendham’s promise to source produce the best British ingredients from small artisan suppliers

Nigel Mendham who was previously head chef at the Michelin-starred Samling Hotel in the Lake District, moved to London a year ago to create a new look and identity for Duke’s restaurant when Thirty Six was launched - so-called because it is the number of the hotel’s entrance and also represents good luck in Chinese astrology.

Yet another surprise was presented to us before our starters - an ‘amuse-bouche’ of roasted chestnut and pancetta.

Topped with foam, their thick and rich but light and sweet texture was so good that I ate all three of them, while my vegetarian and pescatarian companions were presented with a ham-free variation.

For my starter I chose the sustainable ‘hand-dived scallops with textures of fresh pea and Iberico ham’.

The colours looked beautiful on the plate, and the textures turned out to be a pea puree, liquid pea and whole peas.

A picture emerged of what Mendham seems to be striving to create in all his dishes – multiple ways of using the same ingredient.

My veggie friend took the goat cheese flan, which came with tangy “variations of beetroot” and a celery sorbet complimented the strong flavour of the flan perfectly.

The pescatarian ordered red mullet with the theme “all things nicoise”, which came on a bed of diced potato, with anchovy purée, deep fried anchovies and quails’ eggs.

My main course of Goosnargh duck - from Lancashire - was cooked to tender medium-rare perfection and the duck theme was expanded with a duck samosa accompaniment as well as foie gras.

Crisp duck crackling provided the perfect texture next to the soft duck meat, and black morello cherries provided sweetness to balance the flavour.

The fish-lover chose sustainable line-caught sea bass with white crab cannelloni, with came with “amazingly earthy” organic carrots and crab mayonnaise.

Meanwhile the veggie tucked into butternut squash fondant, puree, with a savoury nutty but sweet granola, which she said delivered “unexpected textures”.

Feeling rather stuffed by this point, we were excited when another bonus course arrived in the form of a refreshing vodka granita with olive powder on a marmalade base.

It really hit the spot, the ice contrasting with tangy sticky orange shreds.

Almost too full to order desert, we were glad we did.

My friend raved about the orchard apple crumble with apple sorbet and brulée which had cinnamon tones, while salted caramel and banana and popcorn contrasted perfectly against an ultra-light chocolate pave.

A blackberry buttermilk slab reminiscent of panna cotta was subtle and not overly sweet, and was served with a blackberry sorbet and liquorice toffee, which was truly out of this world.

This was all accompanied with refreshing mint tea served grandiosely in a silver teapot.

Believing our meal finished, we couldn’t believe it when a plate of petites fours turned up to tempt us.

Sadly I was just too full up to feast on the mini lemon merengue, a tart cube of blackcurrant jelly, a tiny chocolate macaron and a saffron Madeleine – but regret not tasting a little nibble now.

The fine-dining experience provided a real foody night out, as we spent a leisurely three and a half hours devouring the seven courses, which filled our bellies to popping point.

“I’ve never had a meal like this,” remarked my friend, and we all dreamt of being able to eat like this every day.

To make a reservation at Thirty Six By Nigel Mendham call 0207 491 4840 or visit www.dukeshotel.com.

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