According to Michelin (2013), there are eight **2 star restaurants in London that are worth a detour. At vialaporte, we’ve devoured our way through five of them, and so far all have impressed except for L’AtelierAtelier is the French word for "workshop" de Joël Robuchon, which continually falls down (and not just in our eyes) on service, not food. So the question is; how well does Mayfair-based The Square stack-up?
Boss Phil Howard has recently welcomed former sous chef Gary Foulkes as his head chef after a stint at La Trompette. The idea being that he wants to inject some modernity into The Square’s cuisine. Based on what we tasted, there is still some way to go.
Though things get off to a great start with tiny, tasty morsel of red mullet as an amuse bouche. Not the standard gougère or mini soup that you might expect. With melting, rich flesh, crispy skin and some remarkable slithers of pickled carrot, the scene is set. Sadly after that, the rest of the meal doesn’t maintain the same level of innovation. For the entrée, a plump raviolo of langoustine with a white asparagus foam is presented. It looks promising, if a bit colourless. Sadly, the lack of colour translates into a lack of taste. While the fish is delicate and the meal nicely balanced with the confit onion, it just lacks any real impact. Very polite, but nothing surprising.
The mains share the same fate too. Risotto with lamb (not veal) sweetbreads and chantrelles is a very nice dish, but is it really **2 star? Presented as it is, it wouldn’t be out of place in a top gastropub. The smoked haddock is even less inspiring. Coated in a masking mustard cream sauce, the fish is nice and flaky, but lacks imagination, not to mention any flair in presentation.
The worst culprit though is the alphonso mango dessert served in various ways. While the quality of the fruit is without question – rich and deep – the treatment is old fashioned and unappealing. Mismatched with spawn-like tapioca, the poor old brandy snap shards and cream cheese ice cream(which are both lovely) don’t work with the other elements on the plate. When compared to desserts from the unjustly un-starred Morgan M, The Square is definitely found to be lacking.
However, the one thing that is **2 star about The Square is the service, which is totally at ease and very natural. The somellier, in particular, clearly enjoys his job and is skilled at knowing what level to pitch. Though it must be said, it’s not the service that you eat when you go to a restaurant.
If The Square is looking to become more modern in its approach, then it should perhaps see what the neighbours are up to. Hibiscus also focuses on the quality of its produce, but Bosi’s combination of flavours and execution is much more sophisticated. The Lecture Room at Sketch delivers playful and surprising dishes that also taste amazing. Given London’s **2 star pedigree, we don’t think Mr. Howard’s offer should be considered to be in the same league.