In a rare development for me, it happens to be that I have recently gone on an actual date. The frequency of such an event is akin to that of the Olympics, or blue moons: they are rarities over the course of time so that when they roll around again, you say, ‘oh yeah, I forgot about that, here we go again’. Now, I’m a natural pessimist when it comes to any real success in my romantic life, so as I didn’t want to risk the whole evening being a complete waste, I selected a place where the food and ambiance never disappoints: Medlar.
This may well be my favourite Chelsea restaurant: refined but not pretentious, small but not crowded, frequented by a polite well-to-do crowd. For those special, quiet, romantic evenings they have a room in the back that makes you feel like you’re in your own secret garden (below). Soft music and lighting, with crisp linens on tables, all make for a really elegant dining atmosphere.
Once seated I am presented with a tempting menu, with fixed prices depending on the number of courses you choose. I enjoy these types of menus: especially when you’re on a first date (of which this was not), so that it becomes more about the food than about the price. As this was not my first time here, I couldn’t help but revert to some of my old favourites, all of which did not disappoint.
Early on into the experience, I was offered a selection of bread and focaccia which were a delicious start to the evening. The focaccia was perfectly salted, with a touch of rosemary to enhance the flavour. The other bread selection was perfect with the butter, served at room temperature for easy spreading.
My appetiser of choice was the duck egg tart, with red wine sauce, turnip puree, lardons and sauteed duck heart. It is a special kind of pleasure to break that duck egg yolk so that its golden gooeyness envelops the saltiness, smokiness and creaminess of the rest of the dish. The combination is a gastronomic treasure; it’s such a lovely start to the dinner.
For the main dish, the lamb rump with sweetbreads, potato terrine, tapenade and rainbow chard was an inevitable choice. I love this dish: the lamb is perfectly cooked, so tender, and irresistible. There is quite a bit going on in this dish: the tender lamb, the firmness of the potato and sweetbreads, the salty olive tapenade… but every element complements the other, and it makes for a strong, balanced dish that also happens to be unexpectedly filling.
There was never any doubt about dessert. When made properly, my favourite dessert might actually be creme brulee’. It’s just a rarity that I order it, because it’s so easy for it to go wrong: there are flavours, temperatures, ingredient quality, and proportions which – if any of them are off – totally ruin the dish for me. But I know that at Medlar, I never have to worry. The golden sugar layer on the top is crispy but not too thick; the creme inside visibly has seeds from the natural vanilla pods used for flavour, and it’s served in a shallow, wide dish that provides plenty of sugar covering and a perfect proportion of creme to sugar. I think that – outside of France – this may well be my favourite creme brulee’.
Now, having had such an amazing dinner, I couldn’t just leave it at that – nor were we in such a rush to end the evening. A white tip tea to aid digestion was very much called for, and was served with a delightful collection of petit fours.
All beautifully served, it was the perfect way to end dinner. I would normally opt for an espresso but having had far too much coffee in the day, this was a delightful alternative that I could enjoy over a longer chat.
The petit fours were delightful: the passionfruit flavoured marshmallow was light as a cloud. The chocolate truffles were clearly handmade and had an interesting freshness as well as warmth to them: initially thinking it might be mint, I later learned the flavours that created this unique sensation were cointreau and cardamom. The staff was so pleased I appreciated them that they kindly gave me some to take away.
The dinner was a lovely experience all around. It goes without saying that, as a regular customer, I’d recommend Medlar highly. Even after all these years it remains one of my favourites, for good reason, and all those I’ve taken have echoed my sentiments. I can’t imagine a better dinner in Chelsea.
*Calories: I may have underestimated, but as portions were modest, I came up with approximately 1200 calories (it helps that no wine was had).
Food taste: 4.5 / 5 (It was fantastic all-around, really.)
Food/table presentation: 4.5 / 5 (Comfortably sized table and seating, lovely linens and flatware, dishes plated simply but with care)
Service: 4.5 / 5 (I had accidentally made the booking for the wrong date and they still accommodated me, even with the busy-ness of the Chelsea Flower Show, and the truffles was a lovely touch)
Atmosphere/decor: 4.75 / 5 (Cosy, comfortable, simple yet elegant, quiet, just as I like it… it’s one of my favourites for atmosphere as much as anything else.)
Value for money: 4 / 5 (With gratuity included, we paid about 63 GBP per person for this fantastic dining experience. I’ve paid more for far less; I’d certainly consider this value for money. )
Overall rating: 4.5/ 5