With two successful restaurants already open on the west-side of the city the Gladwin Bros have already proven that people will travel (albeit only a short tube journey or bus ride from everywhere else in London) for good food. Yet with their latest opening – Nutbourne – it seems as though the team behind Rabbit and The Shed have set themselves their biggest challenge to date, in an attempt to entice customers to visit their new neighbourhood restaurant.
Battersea is not a million miles away from central London, yet with relatively poor transport links to the backstreet that the restaurant is set upon, it does not seem easy for those without an SW11 postcode at the end of their address to miss, unsure of what all of this fuss is about. My journey from the other side of the Capital, for instance, included a tube ride, twenty minutes on the bus, and a good five-minute walk from the bus to the restaurant (nearer ten if the traffic is heavy, to include waiting at crossings).
Inside, the restaurant has a homely atmosphere not too dissimilar to that of an idealistic country pub, Orwell’s ‘Moon Under Water’, perhaps. What’s most surprising about our mid-week lunch visit is the fact that it’s really quite busy, with an eclectic mix of patrons. Floor to ceiling conservatory windows allow natural light to flood the room, then with plant pots, parachuting vegetables and leafy carrots hanging from the ceiling beams, the décor has a wonderful balance. It’s playful without being infantile, and colourfully kitsch – yet not to the point of turning the dining room into a beacon of bad taste.
Following a glass of Nutbourne’s house red, we begin with ‘Mushroom Marmite’. It’s the type of dish that we food writers are generally encouraged to order for no other reason besides the fact that it sounds so astoundingly terrible. Arriving with flatbread sticking out of the top, like lost boots and shopping trollies in the banks of the Thames, the smooth concoction resembles a bowl of wet clay. The taste, however, is sensational with bold flavours of earthy wild mushroom, blended into a paste with yeasty, umami notes of marmite. This is especially high praise, given that both mushrooms and marmite are two of my least favourite edibles.
Elsewhere, grouse is served on a hot slab of Himalayan rock salt, crying to be eaten quickly before it becomes overcooked and over-seasoned at the table. We save it just in time, while it still tastes wonderful in all of its rich glory, coated with a salty outer bark that’s delicious with the bird’s sweet plum jam escort. A true celebration of seasonal ingredients, a dish of rustic globules of pumpkin gnocchi with spring onion and roasted pumpkin seeds is prettily presented, delivering vibrancy of freshness that’s all-too-often difficult to find in so many new restaurants.
On par with the ‘mushroom marmite’ in terms of brilliance, a dish of lamb leg offers strips meat cooked perfectly rare, as ordered. The taste of mulled wine gel is all but lost with the strong notes of onion from the red onion salsa that’s somewhat overpowering, but with lamb that’s cooked this well – all can be forgiven. One of two vegetarian mains, on the other hand, is so sweet that it would work just as well under the dessert heading of the menu. A round of fried goats cheese is cooked in the soft rind, this caramelises and the inside cheese oozes on to the plate with an abundance of flavour. This is topped with a fistful of almonds that work in harmony with the cheese, as does the honey, in moderation. Alas, there’s so much honey drizzled over the dish that its sweetness is the only flavour that prevails when tasting all elements of the dish.
Alike the mushroom and marmite combination to begin, our chosen dessert to share also brings an air of trepidation. Sadly, this dish does not work so well as the aforementioned. A scoop of lovage sorbet (not ice cream) is expectedly bitter, but it’s the addition of basil that lends a less than riveting medicinal touch to the dessert. Sure, it’s creative and pushes boundaries, yet it would work infinitely better as a pre-meal palate cleanser, instead of a dessert alongside the likes of chocolate mousse, royal cheesecake trifle and sticky toffee pudding.
It’s clear that the restaurant’s vast menu is not lacking any creativity, with some truly remarkable dishes on offer. What’s more, with the better dishes sampled, warm service and country pub ambience – Nutbourne is absolutely worth venturing across the city for. Alternatively, if you live nearby there is no reason to avoid visiting on a regular basis.
Nutbourne can be found at 29 Ransomes Dock, 35-37 Parkgate Road, London, SW11 4NP.