The New Angel in Bayswater exudes the feeling of classic fine dining. It makes sense, being the first restaurant that renowned TV personality and Chef John Burton-Race has run, after a ten year break in France soaking up the food and culture. The place itself is elegant and understated with quite a formal atmosphere; waiters are suited, super attentive and really know their menu. Beautiful plates of food are placed on immaculate white table cloths, a champagne cart goes round greeting those who have just been seated as easy listening piano gently plays… an instrumental version of Talk Dirty to Me by Jason Derulo. Fair enough. This is the first sign that The New Angel isn’t quite as conservative as you might initially expect.
Our meal started off with a glass of champagne and a special sort of amuse bouche from the chef; celeriac and white truffle purée with braised sweetbreads served in a shot glass.This was about the most luxurious start to a meal possible. The truffle and celeriac blended together made the most warming, creamy, endorphin-releasing flavour imaginable with chunks of rich sweetbread adding texture and even more rich flavour. It was the culinary equivalent of a shot of heroin and a good start to the meal.
The menu definitely leans heavily on classic French haute cuisine, but there are unusual modern twists everywhere. For starters I ordered the Smoked Eel, an old traditional British dish that is seeing a resurgence in many restaurants. The New Angel’s version, however, is something rather different; the eel is served with shaved frozen foie gras, wild mushrooms, a salad of cabbage and lychee with a handful of toasted walnuts to add some crunch to the dish. With the smokiness of the eel, the sweetness of lychee, strong umami taste of real wild mushrooms, it was a complete mosaic of flavours, textures and colours. That might be a bit of a sensory overload for some, but for adventurous foodies it offers something unique and exciting. Considering the mix of flavours on the plate an Australian Chardonnay, 2011 Devil Bend Creek, suited it perfectly.
Max Feldman, our resident arts correspondent and man date for the night, ordered the Devon Crab with Chilli Champagne Sabayon. Again serious luxury food, the sweet morsels of crab meat and spicy sabayon sauce was offset with cooling slices of cucumber and mango. This was also expertly paired with a unique Japanese wine made from a variety of grape indigenous to Japan, a 2012 Koshu Hishiyuma from Grace Winery. A clean mirin like flavour was great for cutting through the rich seafood, butter and chilli and gave the dish an interesting Asian/French fusion twist.
In fact, the wine pairings often felt essential in getting the full experience of each dish, this certainly was the case with the mains. Influenced by a Keith Floyd programme, watched the night before, on the finer points of squab (baby pigeon), I felt it was destiny when I saw it on the menu. Roasted slices of breast were very moist with an almost fish-like texture and a subtle gamey taste. It was delicious with wafers of crispy salted foie gras, Perigold black truffle and a thin jus. However the dish didn’t, at first, feel complete, until trying the accompanying wine, a perfectly balanced and complex red from a new wine growing region in Spain, Ribera Del Duero. The 2009 Domino de Cair was simultaneously silky, spicy and fruity with notes of minerality that were perfectly balanced and complementary to the meal, elevating it to something quite special.
The roasted dayboat brill was a strong main dish; the fish was charred on the outside and moist on the inside with an almost meaty quality (a parallel to the squab I guess). Served with Serrano ham, powerful wild mushrooms and caramelised pork jus which gave the dish a really hearty presence unlike the often light and insubstantial fish options on many menus.
By dessert we were both extremely full but couldn’t resist pushing on. The crème brûlée with cardamom ice cream and mango sorbet made for a great light pudding after a big meal. It has a fresh and floral feel and looks beautiful with segments of mandarin, strips of zest and edible flowers scattering the plate. One thing to mention is it feels a little like a springtime/summer dessert, but it was appropriate after so much food. Max went for the Armagnac and prune soufflé with Armagnac ice cream and Armagnac butter milk. A perfectly cooked soufflé, top quality ice cream and a bloody good dessert wine to match made for a great end to a fantastic meal. The New Angel is firmly rooted in fine dining traditions and this is no bad thing; the food here isn’t chasing fashion but definitely makes room for experimentation and original ideas. Three courses will set you back £34 per head, which is an honest price for the quality of food you get in an elegant and refined environment where you can focus on beautiful dishes and good company.