Scully, London SW1: restaurant review
Does a regular diner reach the same conclusion about a restaurant as a food pro, who may get special treatment if recognised? Laura Rowe and olive reader Joseph Divis compare notes on this new restaurant in St James’s
About Scully, London
Scully is Ramael Scully’s first solo venture after six years as head chef at Yotam Ottolenghi’s Nopi. His new upmarket but unpretentious restaurant is the latest addition to St James’s buzzing restaurant hub, St James’s Market.
The menu focusses on seasonal British produce peppered with ingredients from Ramael’s Chinese, Indian, Irish and Balinese heritage. The chef was born in Malaysia, grew up in Sydney and worked in the Middle East, Russia and Europe, so he has gathered methods from a multitude of cuisines to create a unique, bold style.
Preserving and pickling techniques take centre stage in a cabinet heaving with jars of ferments. Vibrant dishes include Dorset snails with kimchi and fried bread, octopus with salt-baked avocado and black garlic, and beef short-rib pastrami with horseradish.
Sit up at the slick marble counter overlooking the wood-framed open kitchen, or join other diners at tables beneath industrial-style ceilings.
The pro restaurant reviewer
Our editor Laura Rowe has reviewed restaurants for more than a decade. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @lauraroweeats.
The punter restaurant reviewer
London-based Joseph Divis loves Italian food. He eats out two to three times a week and his best dining experience was at 40 Maltby Street in Bermondsey. His guilty pleasure is a Creme Egg or two (try our Creme Egg brownie cake recipe here)...
Our pro's Scully, London restaurant review...
Set just back from Regent Street – with Aquavit, Ikoyi (read our restaurant review here) and Duck & Waffle Local as neighbours – Scully is in a hidden corner of St James’s Market, a tricky new dining area of London, surprisingly corporate (read: soulless) near the relentless throng of Piccadilly Circus.
Scully is impressive in its unapologetic eclecticism. The stark concrete décor is given warmth via a buzzy open kitchen and a wall stacked with colourful homemade spice blends, dehydrated herbs, seeds and flowers, vinegars, pickles, syrups, shrubs and preserves.
Staff are very familiar, which helps because the menu will probably need decoding for most. Before we even sit down we’re talked through, even encouraged to smell, some of the jars that will make an appearance during our dinner. *I was recognised.
With a layered heritage comes layers of flavours – it’s an ineffable collection of dishes, from the warm masala chickpeas served on arrival to the moreish fried South American arepas, used to mop up a scented bed of bergamot labneh and aubergine sambal, soft and silky, with a donkey kick of heat.
Wine is sourced from Newcomer Wines in Dalston, which specialises in artisanal wines from sustainable producers – particularly from Austria. We order a bottle of Jurtschitsch Grüner Veltliner 2016, Kamptal: it’s a refreshing, almost saline foil for the powerful plates of food that keep coming.
Vegetable achar (aka funky, pickled veg with proper crunch) is a highlight with a sweet/sour apple sauce and a rubble of salty peanuts. Monkfish, too, with a curried coconut broth and a slap of chillies, shrimp paste and lime juice (Malaysian sambal belacan), wowed.
The clash of influences doesn’t always work – and this is most pronounced in the desserts. Parsnip and coconut sorbet with pandan and coffee is unpleasant, but Piura Porcelana chocolate sorbet with pistachio is sublime.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The plates at Scully can only be described as aggressively flavourful, which some people will love but others may not. It’s like a rollercoaster ride for your senses – exhilarating but perhaps not something for everyday.
Total for two, excluding service: £158.50
Our punter's Scully, London restaurant review...
We were welcomed to Scully by shelves of colourful pickling jars, providing a glimpse into the type of food and flavours to come. The décor is a tasteful mix of modern/rustic (slick wooden chairs, concrete floors, exposed pipework and ceramic crockery), with the open kitchen providing a continuous buzz of activity at the heart of the restaurant.
The menu contained unusual ingredients such as achar and arepa, which the knowledgeable waiter demystified in detail. The achar (pickled vegetables) came with sweet apple and a hint of Southeast Asian satay from the crunchy peanut. The arepa, a type of South American sandwich, was served in the form of a crispy tortilla – soft and fluffy in the middle, and caramelised on the outside. This was moreish on its own but enhanced when dipped into aubergine sambal and smoky, creamy bergamot labneh.
Next we tried beef tendon puffs, which was the most theatrical dish, but didn’t deliver as highly as the rest of our selection, as the accompanying foamy oyster mayonnaise was too rich. More enjoyable was charred white sprouting broccoli, served with vibrant yellow egg yolk, which complemented the sharpness of the accompanying chinkiang vinegar. Better still was the monkfish special, which the waiter had matched perfectly with an Australian riesling that cut through the meatiness of the fish and the lightly spiced curry sauce.
For dessert, the parsnip and coconut sorbet was surprisingly creamy and well paired with the sweet and crunchy pandan wafers. To finish, the bloody negroni, served with blood orange, was a perfectly refreshing end to a memorable evening.
THE BOTTOM LINE
We will definitely be returning to Scully. The atmosphere is fun and the set-up caters equally well for small and larger groups. Both the quality of the food and the attentive service justified
the cost. Most importantly, the eclectic, ever-changing seasonal menu ensures that each
visit is unique.
Total for two, excluding service: £130.50