Restaurant Ours, London: restaurant review
Does an average diner reach the same conclusions about restaurants as a food pro, who may get special treatment if recognised?* olive editor Laura Rowe and Chris Wallis compare notes on Restaurant Ours
Chris Wallis lives in Manchester and eats out every week. His favourite cuisine is Italian and he loves everything at Bocca di Lupo in Soho.
Restaurant Ours is the latest offering from acclaimed chef Tom Sellers, whose first venture, Restaurant Story, won a Michelin star within five months of opening in 2013, when Tom was just 26.
At Restaurant Ours Tom has the role of culinary director, with Daniel Phippard as head chef. It’s a beautiful room in the heart of Knightsbridge, with high ceilings, an exposed red brick wall with arched windows, and three trees aglow with fairy lights. You can choose to sit on the olive green velvet banquette, at wooden tables, or around the bar.
The menu is divided into seven sections, including raw dishes – steak tartare, scallops with fingerling lime, and sea bass with melon – salads and mains. Beef gets its own sub-heading, and includes a Galician beef sirloin with sauce béarnaise, and veal rib cooked on the bone with girolles and truffles. restaurant-ours.com
Our pro says...
A 30-metre catwalk leading to the dining room sets the tone. For some it’ll be a thrill to walk down, for others an embarrassment. But, for us, it was fun – much like everything else at Restaurant Ours. *I wasn’t recognised.
It’s cavernous and trendy in equal measure – upbeat music (80s synth pop to 90s RnB); chic waiting staff; and the real rock stars (this is a Tom Sellers restaurant, after all), the chefs, take centre stage in an open kitchen.
The menu isn’t as simple as starters, mains and desserts – Tom’s thrown ‘raw’, ‘salads’, ‘beef’ and ‘sides’ in there too, which encourage over-ordering. Most earn their place at the table. A shrimp and yuzu toastie was comforting, if on the pricey side (£12) and lacking in a sharp smack of citrus. Ibérico ham croquetas were some of the best we’ve ever had – almost glossy with cheese.
Steak tartare is made with Galician beef that’s as de rigueur in London as the power brows worn by many of Ours’ celebrity fans – a Kardashian has been ‘spotted’ here (need I say more). It was buttery, gamey and you could taste its age. Tomato salad was designed with #nofilter in mind: a rainbow of heritage tomatoes with delicately pink pickled shallots, baby basil, crispy croutons and a clear consommé rebelliously dirtied with freshly cracked black pepper.
Mains were OK. Soft lamb with charred butter lettuce, morels and peas was as you’d expect, while the veal chop’s rich (in every sense of the word) ingredients, black truffle, golden girolles and madeira jus didn’t quite come together. Half-roasted cauliflower on the side really shone – charred and bathed in buttery, north African spices, tender but still with juicy bite – as did umani-packed pecorino and foie gras chips. Îles flottantes was a polite finish to a perfectly pleasant meal with passion fruit custard and textures of coconut.
Our punter says...
Our reservation was checked twice with the thoroughness of a US customs official, before a charming man took us to our table, which sat under a tree covered in lights. There are three such in the room, one encircled by a bar. It’s quite dark, and we thought the tone was more nightclub than restaurant – it even had 80s funk playing in the background.
The menu is divided into seven sections, with plenty of small-and-healthy plates. From the ‘snacks’ menu we tried gougères (crispy and delicious); and an anchovy and avocado tart that was a tartine at best – it sat on what looked like
a piece of toast. Tuna and ginger from the ‘raw’ section was thinly-sliced discs of fish in a ginger and spring onion sauce – moreish and sharp, but a small portion considering the £10 price tag.
The sea bass main was thick and beautifully cooked; it came on a bed of peas and asparagus. Aged Galician beef rib with marrowbone and morels was cooked medium rare and had a good, rich jus. The marrowbone tasted exactly like the juice in a garlic snail (delicious), but the morels didn’t add much. Trendy sides of hispi cabbage and roasted cauliflower weren’t particularly special, but the chips were great.
One dessert – chocolate sponge with ganache, black tea ice cream and toasted almonds – was a pleasure, but a plum ‘tart’ was far from being a tart; it was simply plum slices on a layer of puff pastry, with vanilla ice cream. It was dry and in need of something – a compote, perhaps.
Wine by the glass was decent and not too expensive, although we found the Invisible Lemon cocktail rather unpleasant; plus our espressos were a little thin. Service, however, was extremely attentive – water and menus arrived quickly, and they were charming throughout.
The bottom line
Yes it’s trendy, and pricey because of the area, so it won’t suit everyone, but some will have a ball here. Like other celebrity hot spots in the capital, it isn’t all about the food here. It’s about atmosphere, buzz, location, people and décor. And that’s OK – just expect to pay a premium for it.
Total for two, excluding service: £193.50
Food 6/10; service 8/10; vibe 8/10; total 22/30
Restaurant Ours says it’s trying to create a relaxed feel (and it succeeds), but the atmosphere is too much and the food not quite sharp enough for serious eaters. It left us puzzled as to the target audience for this strangely mixed experience…
Total for two, excluding service: £157.35
Food 6/10; service 8/10; vibe 4/10; total 18/30
Food Made Good sustainability score – 5.5
The story of Tom Sellers’ new eatery, Restaurant Ours, is of a menu filled with dishes into which much thought has clearly gone. With a lip-smacking looking selection of seasonal cocktails, diners can get off to a punchy, positive start. The ingredients for these and for many of the menu items shout careful consideration; the Galician beef for example. From a welfare perspective, these aged cows, often living to 15-years-old, have almost certainly enjoyed a charmed and undoubtedly longer life than their British cousins, which must be slaughtered by 30 months. But, the environmental footprint of a large bovine creature is only going to get heftier the longer they live. Encouragingly, the rest of the meat is British and free-range. When it comes to the seafood offering, the net has been cast wide; but as is often the case in the complex waters of sustainable fish, there are one or two potential traps. Monkfish, for which there is no farmed variety, is classified as having “significant environmental issues” and the Marine Conservation Society recommends that you steer clear of it if possible. Sea bass, meanwhile is a species currently in such deep water and drastically reduced numbers, that the MCS rates it a ‘5’ on its list of fish to eat and avoid the worst possible rating.
The healthy eating focus deserves praise at Ours, with a vegetarian menu and large number of vegetable-based dishes. Back of house, the kitchen has been fitted with a number of pieces of energy efficient equipment and staff in energy and water efficient best practice. Like many newly opened restaurants, there’s plenty more that can be done over the coming months in terms of the environment.
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