I have been to The Chancery several times before and have found its modern British, fine dining menus consistently impressive. I was therefore keen to see what new Executive Chef, Mladen Vidakovic (whose earlier career includes stints with the Galvins and Marco Pierre White) had to offer. I took the opportunity to find out with a family get-together over dinner one Friday evening, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed, so it seemed the perfect opportunity to pen another restaurant review.
We began the meal with a complimentary amuse bouche – a wonderfully thick and creamy asparagus soup topped with crunchy crushed walnuts and a tangy crumbled mature cheddar cheese. It was a fantastic opener and a sign of good things to come, though it was slightly tricky to get all of the soup out of the (admittedly attractive, but somewhat impractical) tall, slim cups it was served in.
To start, I chose the veal carpaccio with truffled egg dressing and parmesan crisp. This was a delicate combination of flavours: the meat was soft and savoury and was beautifully accented by the salty tang of the parmesan crisp; the truffled egg dressing was light and creamy with a slight hint of nuttiness and some small sprigs of cress added a delicious peppery twist. Others in my dining party started with an ox cheek ravioli served with celeriac and girolles, and a Cornish crab velouté with a crab and sweetcorn croquette, both of which were the subject of lavish praise around the table.
For main, I opted for the wild sea bass, pomme gallette, creamed spinach and oxtail jus. I was initially a little apprehensive about the combination of oxtail and fish, but in fact it was simply divine. The sea bass was cut thick, almost like a steak, and the crunchy skin and tender white flesh were more than able to stand up to the meaty flavour of the oxtail. The pomme gallette was a wonderfully satisfying accompaniment, with a perfectly yielding texture and a subtly warming flavour of onions in addition to its potato base, while the creamed spinach was beautifully rich and smooth but still retained its savoury vegetal flavour. My dining partners’ mains were brilliantly diverse, ranging from a spring-like steamed halibut with asparagus, mussels and a clam and seaweed butter to a hearty rump of lamb with Jerusalem artichoke puree, crispy sweetbreads and black olive jus, and all were equally well appreciated with plates practically licked clean.
Next came a small complimentary palette cleanser of vanilla crème brulée topped with home-made rhubarb sorbet. This was actually my favourite dish of the evening and one of the best crème brulées I have ever had the pleasure of eating. The vanilla cream was richly flavoured and incredibly smooth, and it contrasted perfectly with the tartness of the rhubarb sorbet and the bitterness of the burnt sugar topping which stuck slightly to my teeth and made me hunger for more.
After such a taste sensation my dessert of profiteroles with honey and lavender cream and warm chocolate sauce felt almost like an anti-climax. Don’t get me wrong – the choux pastry was perfectly rendered and the honey and lavender flavours in the cream were beautifully delicate, but they did get slightly lost under the richness of the dark chocolate sauce. I also had a bad case of dessert envy, as the peanut butter parfait with dark chocolate sorbet ordered by one of my dining partners was an utterly perfect plateful of decadence. The smoothness of the parfait was punctuated by the delectable crunch of chopped peanuts and the intensity of flavour was just fantastic.
The wine list also merits a mention, as it offers a good range of both reds and whites, including a decent selection at entry level prices (though sadly only a few are available by the glass). We enjoyed a bottle of the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Colle Morino, Tuscany, Italy, 2008 (£23.00) – a fairly classic Montepulciano, it was dry and fruity with distinct notes of blackberry, and light, soft tannins.
Although a fine dining restaurant with a fairly minimalist décor, The Chancery retains a relaxed atmosphere. The space is small but there is ample room between tables and the background music is kept at a discreetly low volume, making it easy to enjoy a conversation with your dining partners. As for the service, it is efficient and attentive but also full of personality, as the staff seem happy to joke with the diners and each other as they flit about, deftly topping up wine and water glasses and answering any questions about the menu. Although not cheap, I feel as though The Chancery offers good value for money, as a three course meal with wine, water, amuse bouches and service comes to around £45 per head. And as subscribers to their mailing list, we had the benefit of a special offer of 50% off our food, which brought the price down to around £30 per head. All in all, this was a fantastic meal, which left our entire party of six satisfied but not stuffed, and earns The Chancery a big four and a half Forks-Up.
The Chancery 9 Cursitor Street London EC4A 1LL 020 7831 4000