by Gareth Groves
I’d make a rubbish restaurant review blogger. For a start, I’m useless with a camera and always feel embarrased when I do take photos in restaurants. I just feel bad stopping my friends from diving in to their scallops starter while I snap away merrily. All of which is my excuse for illustrating this post with a photo nicked for Odette’s website rather than plates of beautiful food. Apologies.
Odettes is a Primrose Hill institution with a history stretching back to 1978. It was Bibendum’s first ever trade customer and Bibendumites have been trooping up their for lunch for most of the 28 years we have been located down the road. In recent years, the quality of that lunch has taken a big step forward.
Former Great British Menu winner, Bryn Williams (my third favourite Welshman after Gethin Jenkins and Bryn’s namesake Shane) bought Odettes three years ago and has quietly turned it into one of London’s best neighbourhood restaurants. The food is complex with being tricksy with clean flavours and impeccable execution. The wine list has much to recommend it too – although I would say that as a number of bottles come from Bibendum’s cellars.
Last week, a few of us popped in to say goodbye to a budding Henry Holland who is off to seek fame, fortune and frites in Belgium. I started with quail, the breasts cooked perfectly, the legs slow cooked, chopped and mixed with blue cheese in a mini-toasted sandwich. A slick of deep green broccoli puree sat alongside. The flavours were as gutsy and loud as the presentation was elegant.
The main course was slow cooked pig cheeks, that offered no resistance to the fork, perched on lemony polenta with ribbons of two-tone courgettes and another slick of colour. This time it was an autumnal reddish brown. We never quite established what it was made out of – we were too busy discussing avant garde fashion design to ask the maitre ‘d – but the best guess suggested tomato and cumin may have been involved at some point. Anyway, it was delicious, Bryn’s deft hand keeping what could have become a heavy, wintry dish actually quite light and lunchy.
Two courses at lunch costs £14. £18 if you add in dessert. A preposterous amount for such refined cooking. A bottle of Corbieres Chateau St Eugene nudged our bill a mite over £20 each. Today’s lunchtime cheese and pickle sandwich will pale in comparison.
Looking for a more thorough, beautifully-photographed review of Odettes from someone who writes a lot more of these things than I do? Check out the always excellent London Eater blog.
Odettes, 130 Regents Park Road, London, NW1 8XL
020 7586 8569