Review: The Truscott Arms, Maida Vale

I knew the Truscott arms in its previous guise, Idlewild. A fairly decent bar with some good food, it has been revamped and reverted to its previous name, The Truscott Arms. The long weekend was a perfect excuse to catch up with friends in the area and sample the place again.

Scallop and chicken win The most glamorous beetroot dish

We all ordered from the excellent value set lunch menu, £18 for 2 courses and £22 for 3. It was a short menu, 3 options for each course, but everything sounded appetising. Starters for me didn’t require too much thinking, scallops and chicken wings, what’s not to like. The scallop came in thick slices, cooked with a bit of colour and very tender. Alongside those were two meaty bits of chicken wing and some roasted pearl barley. A well measured portion for a lunch starter, and some super meaty umami-rich jus brought it all together into a brilliant starter. The wife opted for candied beetroot and ricotta. Elegantly presented, with a variety of beetroots (including some beetroot jelly) and a quenelle of homemade ricotta. Anna enjoyed it, I found it well cooked but overly sweet and pushing somewhere towards a dessert for my palate.

Special mention to the drinks at this point, the beer selection was very good with London Fields and Camden Town on tap (I opted for the always superlative Shoreditch Triangle IPA). They also have an extensive wine list with plenty of interesting choices by the glass. My glass of Lebanese red (chateau Ksara rather than the more usually seen Mussar) to go with my main was absolutely excellent and a bargain at £9 for 250ml.

Delicious short rib A cracking plate of fish

Short rib of beef was the natural option for me next. A very hearty plate of unctuous soft meat accompanied by a slice of pomme Anna and spinach. The meat was flavoursome and perfectly cooked. The pomme Anna had a crisp edge and was soft in the middle, with a side of morels and morel sauce adding the final touch for a great dish. Very hard to fault, it was rich, comforting and decadent making full use of this cheap flavoursome cut. Anna and Sam shared a big plate of lemon sole with potatoes, asparagus and a mussel veloute. It was presented on a sharing platter, very generously portioned again with soft well-cooked fish.

Sticky banana dessert

Desserts, I was going to resist but given it was only £4 and seeing the quality of the good, I couldn’t resist. Sticky toffee pudding with banana was a great twist on a classic. A light sweet sponge and sauce was paired with fresh banana, banana ice cream and topped with a quenelle of cream. The fresh banana stopped it being too cloying and the banana ice-cream had great depth of flavour. For £22, this was an absolutely cracking meal, and paired with the great drinks was a very enjoyable lunch. I will definitely be back.

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Ich Bin Ein Berliner, Fischers Fritz at the Regent

Set lunch Wine by the glass

No doughnuts on display here, maybe a beignet if you’re lucky. This is one of Berlin’s finest restaurants, headed by Christian Lohse at the posh Regent hotel and with a lofty two Michelin stars. It also has an eye-wateringly expensive dinner menu, I’ve started to realise how great value fine dining in London can be compared to Europe in general. However I wanted to try it and the lunch menu was better at €47 for 3 courses. Still not bargainous but more palatable for a flying visit to Berlin. The welcome was excellent, very refined and formal but with friendliness from the staff. The dining room was grand and generously spaced, lots of soft furnishings and elegant art. It had a touch of hotel dining room about it, but only in the grandest sense (maybe too much beige for my liking). And the wife was concerned about the creases in the thick linen tablecloth, they looked neat to me though.

That contraversial halibut cheese combo Croquette

We were offered a pre-dinner drink, without a price list which always annoys me slightly. Anyway, we opted for a rose champagne and a Manzanilla sherry. Both very nice although quite short measures (100ml and 50ml) for the price (€22 and €16!). An amuse of German anise crackers was brought over, they were light and a good start. My starter was a carpaccio of halibut with fennel and burrata. Fish and cheese are extremely hard to pull off together, they are not natural bedfellows (just ask an Italian). But … the creaminess of the burrata did work, adding some richness to the succulent wafer thin slices of fish. Impressive. The wife opted for pepper and ginger veloute with a prawn croquette. Tons of depth of flavour from the crisp prawn ball and the rich thick veloute poured at the table. Both were beautifully presented, and a light start which was well measured for lunch.

Breads galore

Special mention to the bread that was brought with the starter and remained throughout the meal, an excellent selection of heavier German nutty rye breads and sourdoughs with creamy soft salted butter.

Paprika pork

Skate

The mains selection in the set menu was quite light on meat options (just pork in fact) and interestingly had more fish. I fancied some meat after my delicate fish main, so pork it was. The wife opted for skate wing. My pork came Szgedin style, a new term to me that the waitress explained was a Hungarian stew. Given it was a stew, it was the most elegantly presented I’ve seen. The soft unctuous pork cheek was draped with a soft whole pepper and topped with a light fresh sauerkraut. Flavoured with smoky paprika, it was a good stew. But maybe a bit of a safe dish, certainly a crowd pleaser but there’s only so much you could do with it. The wife’s skate wing was perfectly cooked and topped with a herby parsley root and butter with capers. Again, a solid dish and nothing to fault, buy maybe a bit safe.

Tropical pre-dessert Ice cream substitute

Next, a nice surprise of a pre-dessert, a tropical dragonfruit sauce and ice-cream. The dragonfruit looked a tad like kiwi fruit (which the wife is allergic to), so after some tropical fruit language issues, they very kindly swapped it for a safer variety (which meant two fruity versions for me).

Namelaka creme, campari jelly and fennel pine juiceThe sublime pineapple, dark chocolate, hop caramel and toast

 

Onto desserts proper, both flawlessly presented and both with sauces poured ceremoniously at the table. The wife opted for Namelaka creme (a creamy white chocolate mousse), Campari jelly and a fennel pine juice. Super smooth sweet white chocolate paired with a bitter-sweet soft jelly and the fresh anise / piney notes of the juice, very clever. My only thought was texturally it was too soft. Next was mine, pineapple, dark chocolate, hop syrup and toast. This was a complete triumph, I was concerned about bitter chocolate and pineapple but paired with the bitter-sweet hop syrup and crunch of the toast, it was a revelation. Very smart, very complex and impossible to fault.

It was a very enjoyable meal from start to finish, the whole experience full of grandeur and luxury. The cooking was precise and elevated classic techniques and dishes with modern touches. My only slight niggle being that the mains felt quite safe compared to the more innovative starters and desserts. And price-wise, it isn’t cheap, two set lunches, a bottle of wine and coffee was nudging £200. But even bearing those in mind, an excellent meal and throughly recommended for a sumptuous meal in an opulent dining room.