Usually when I write a review of a restaurant I try to frame it as an overall experience, partly because there are people more expert than me to appraise the technical quality of the food, but mostly because I don’t think an evening in a restaurant is solely about the food. We go out with our partners, friends and colleagues to spend a lunchtime or evening with them (or on our own; I secretly quite like dining on my own sometimes) and want to enjoy food, drinks, conversation, a great atmosphere, a beautiful venue, an experience that is usual or many other things. The food is the most important element but to use an inelegant phrase is necessary but not sufficient. Put slightly better, I still remember eating my first beef stroganoff at 13 years old, but part of the vividness of the memory is eating it in the dining car of an old-fashioned sleeper train slipping through the Swiss Alps as the sun set in the West.
I write this not because the overall experience at London Stock was poor – far from it – or, on the other hand, nor was the décor and atmosphere the absolute best available in Mayfair at the moment. I write it because the food was the best I have eaten all year, and that it has pushed everything about the place into hazy periphery. It simply is that good.
So let’s back up for a moment. London Stock is a British fine dining restaurant headed up by chef Sebastian Rast, a Cordon Bleu graduate who is a protégé of the amazing Ollie Dabous formerly of the eponymous Dabbous (which I loved) and now Michelin-starred HIDE (ditto). In other words, he has serious pedigree.
London Stock was originally based in Wandsworth where basically everyone loved it. As a deserved result Mr Rast has acquired backers with sufficient funds to move into the big league of Mayfair restaurants and its’ new home is in the former Amethyst space on Sackville Street, just off Piccadilly. The venue has been simplified with an open kitchen at the back, simple but elegant tables and chairs arranged with appropriate distance and a downstairs bar. All expertly done. So we can move on.
London Stock offers two menu choices: a set menu of four courses for £60 or a tasting menu of eight courses for £85. These are all accompanied by bread and amuse-bouches. These consisted of an apple, pea and cinnamon tart with almost perfect pastry and then a deep, dark brioche which we used to mop up a raisin and sauvignon blanc mousse that I can only describe as being like Sauternes in a bowl.
For our first course, I had cured sea bream ceviche in a dashi sauce with kumquats and yuzu, which was the perfect start to a meal – clean, fresh, pure flesh with an underlying presence of umami from the dashi sauce countered by the fizz of citric acid from the kumquats and yuzu. Even better (inevitably) was my companion’s order of beef tartare with fig, miso and pearl onion – pictured below. This was utterly inspired – the sweetness of the fig, umami from miso and the puckering, tangy onions gave a taste palette to the beef that was unlike anything else. You can imagine sitting back with some thin crispy toast and eating this forever.
For our second course, I had native lobster with bak choy in a sauce based on tom yum soup with lime, which was more subtle than expected, with the sweetness of perfectly cooked lobster enlivened by the deep and complex sauce. My companion ordered, and was delighted by, a courgette flour with tofu, lime and carrot. Beautiful on the plate it was sweet and moreish with a momentous but not overwhelming sauce.
Then the main courses. First up my Suffolk lamb shoulder with a Mediterranean puree, kale and black olives. The lamb was perfectly cooked (unlike my attempt at home this New Year’s Eve – it turns out 4 hours in the Aga is in fact not enough) and this very best, most delicious bit of the lamb was soft and febrile with melted fat running through it and a dense, sticky lamb sauce which would be better described as ‘essence of lamb’. In fact, the whole dish was like a cheat sheet on how good lamb can be. Fantastic, but unexpectedly and unbelievably trumped by the other main course.
This was cherry tomato risotto with lovage, parmesan and white tomato foam. Dish of The Year 2023. I hate writing capital letters within a sentence, but that just had to be said. A low wide bowl seemingly of white foam surrounded by a tiara of thin, crisp flatbread dotted with jewels of emulsions and edible flowers. See below for how gorgeous it looks. Then when you break some of the flatbread and push it through the foam this pinkish risotto emerges and flows slowly across like lava. It tastes how you imagine a tomato should taste but never quite does. Essence of tomato. Perfect, delicious, imaginative, and I just want to have it again, preferably all to myself. I’m not really a big fan of vegetarian food, but that was the single best plate of food I have eaten all year. Don’t just believe me – why would you – go here try it, and then tell me if you think I’m wrong.
Desserts were on a tough wicket following those two dishes, but they certainly gave it a go. I loved the raspberry with fig leaf, honeycomb and pistachio and my companion’s dulcey of brownie, caramel and orange was a combination of sweetness and cocoa sufficient in its indulgence to bring the priest and the doctor in their long coats running over the fields.
This place breaks a couple of main assumptions I make about restaurants – the highlight was the main courses, not the starters, as great as the starters were, and that the thing is the food, just the food, don’t worry about anything else. It is also astonishing value for Mayfair at £60 for that food. I suspect as it develops a following it won’t be this cheap for long. Go now, and keep going back.