Review: Odette’s, Primrose Hill

What does £12 get you for lunch in a proper-to-goodness restaurant these days? Not a lot, particularly in London and even more-so in the heart of leafy Primrose Hill. A scallop starter perhaps (in fact the exact price of a starter I had the same night at The Engineer around the corner)? At Pizza Express, my benchmark of mediocre cheap food, you can just about get a single pizza, as long as you pick some of the cheaper ones. Skip that and come to Odette’s, this smart restaurant will serve you a stunning 2 course lunch for that princely sum! It must be the best value lunch in London.

Opened by Bryn Williams in 2008, over the past few years I’ve visited several times for both lunch and dinner and have every time been served impeccable food. On the one hand it operates as an excellent neighbourhood restaurant with its keen pricing, warm professional service and somewhat low profile. I would imagine it has a lot of regulars. Which is all great, but what really shines is the food, I’m frankly amazed they don’t have any stars yet, it absolutely deserves one. The set lunch menu is short (2 dishes per course) but still provides interesting options and decent size dishes. 3 courses is even better value at £15.

Sweet rye bread

We started with their regular sweet rye(?) bread topped with oat flakes brought  to the table with soft butter, adding even more to the value given their set menu prices. Very moreish, it is quite sweet to start but quickly becomes addictive with its firm but not too dense texture. The butter was either unsalted or very lightly salted and I think it was much improved when we requested some salt at the table and added it on top. And the salt was traditional table salt, a small matter perhaps but I would prefer flaked salt.

Brandade with bacon jamTo start I went for the cod brandade with bacon jam and sweetcorn. Certainly an intriguing combination and quite unusual to have a brandade with a sweet meat-based accompaniment. It came beautifully presented with the brandade in a deep fried shell and a puffed up piece of fish skin atop for texture. The sweetcorn was perfectly cooked to be firm, sweet and juicy. The bacon jam was a masterstroke. Sweet, sticky and meaty it added depth to the whole dish. The fish brandade was light and the crunchy fish skin brought everything together. Nitpicking, slightly more cod flavour would have been good in the brandade, a higher ratio of fish is always good.

Pork and apple, elevated.

My black pudding in hiding

 

My main was a classic pork, apple and potato combination, but elevated to something more special with some great touches. Firstly the menu specified black pudding, which I couldn’t find until turning over my apple and seeing it stuffed with more porky goodness. The meat was soft and unctuous but had then been fried in to crisp up the edges for a great texture contrast. And the potato (dauphinoise) was neat and perfectly cooked. All of this was topped with a rich jus with a glossy sheen and deep flavour.

Lamb and artichoke

Rich rich mashGreens

The wife went off the standard menu (not being a great fan of black pudding or the other option of mushrooms). What arrived was a glorious hunk of pink lamb, broad beans and “burnt” tomatoes. Accompanied by neatly prepared artichoke and an artichoke puree, it all combined very well and brought together again by a top quality sauce. Classic but with the slight twist of artichoke which I hadn’t thought of before. The side of mash probably wasn’t needed (I did ask if my pork came with potato and thought they said no) but it was smooth and very rich, plenty of butter for sure. The side of cabbage was fine, although perhaps it needed an extra dimension and / or a bigger portion for the price.

We skipped dessert since we were both so full by this point. Thinking about it, that would have only cost us an extra £2 with my set menu, so probably a bad decision. Particularly as the wife saw them on the way out and suddenly had more of an appetite. So, as I’m sure you can tell, I more than quite like this place and think it deserves the highest praise. Come for lunch for amazing value, and then come to dinner for a perfect relaxed indulgent meal. Stunning.

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