First and foremost, Happy 2020 to all – even if a little delayed. Understandably, it’s a little difficult to feel happy about the new year as we approach what research suggests is the most depressing day of the year (20 or 23 January, depending who you believe, but I’d go with the 20th this year as it’s a Monday). And so, what better way to kick off the new year than with a top-notch restaurant that’s warm and cozy, and perfect for those cold winter evenings.
Myrtle Restaurant opened less than a year ago to much fanfare, which isn’t surprising in light of head chef Anna Haugh’s stellar resume’ and Michelin experience. I remember the French cheese restaurant, Art du Fromage, that used to be in this location before (I was devastated when it shut down, and still miss it dearly), and hoped very much it would be a worthy follower. I would not be disappointed.
My friend and I arrived to a comforting and welcoming atmosphere and were seated at a cozy and charming table upstairs. The lighting created a warm and (if the occasion calls for it) romantic setting, and the details – the flatware, glasses, etc- were not lost on me. We particularly appreciated our very traditionally styled water goblets, which set the tone for a meal that would be all about attention to detail.
We reviewed the menu and found ourselves overwhelmed with inspiring choices, and thankfully our waiter was very helpful in guiding us along the way. With options like these, where does one begin?
We started our feast with some traditional soda bread, pre-sliced and presented in a lovely cloth bag to keep it warm (another appreciated detail). Of course, it was warm and delicious, and paired perfectly with our easy-to-spread butter, curiously yet conveniently served in a tubular form.
But we were famished, and ordered nibbles before our starter, which consisted of the delicate Violetta crisps, well-named given their purple colour, and a treat I hadn’t enjoyed for some time: Irish Carlingford Oysters with lemon and dill. They had a beautiful flavour and I quite appreciated that they weren’t served with some variation of a hot sauce which seems all too common these days.
The evening proceeded at an relaxed pace, and we enjoyed our nibbles thoroughly prior to our starters – and for me, it was one of the chef’s signature dishes: the Clonakilty black pudding, wrapped in potato, with Braeburn apple puree. I could easily appreciate why this was a signature dish, with its strong ties to Irish tradition, paired with a modern, creative and minimalist presentation. Yes, it was the best black pudding I have ever had, and the puree’ created a lovely contrast and balance to the black pudding. I enjoyed every morsel; I had only wished the portion was a touch bigger.
All in all I’d been impressed so far, and awaited the main course with eagerness. I had ordered the roasted beef fillet, Burren beef stuffed in boxty, tarragon and confit shallot jus – and paired it with colcannon as a side dish. The roast beef was as tender as the Burren beef, and the boxty (Irish potato cake) made it feel like a sinful treat, almost like a mini cottage pie – but a much more refined version. The colcannon was was the ultimate comfort side dish, but I always feel a little less guilty when I have it in comparison to traditional mash or puree’ because of the added greens. This dish is a delicious and refined take on some of the best comfort foods you can have, and made for a wonderful winter main course.
Finally, all that was left to choose was dessert! We were certainly full by this point, but we went out with the intention of making a feast out of this, and so we did. I couldn’t make up my mind between the little mini doughnuts (the small portion felt a little less naughty) and the dark chocolate tart, which was difficult to resist because, after all, it was chocolate. Luckily, we didn’t have to choose: the waiter kindly brought us a portion of the mini doughnuts on the house, and we ordered our tarts. Of course, the tart was lovely: the chocolate consistency was ideal – not too hard or soft – and the flavour was concentrated and had real depth. Combined with the firm biscuit base, it was all you’d want in a chocolate tart. But I must admit, it was the doughnuts I enjoyed more! Maybe it was the playful element of eating dessert with your hands, maybe it was because they were served warm, I’m not sure – but these round little dough balls brought me great joy and I would order them again.
We ended our feast with a much needed coffee: with all this food, I couldn’t slept without it (going to bed on a full stomach affects my sleep more than all the caffeine in the world). We reflected on our truly lovely evening in this special little spot in Chelsea, and we both declared it a huge success, promising ourselves to return soon.
*Calories: I didn’t track accurately, but given the bread, crisps, oysters, starter, main, two desserts, a glass of champagne and a bottle of wine that we shared (I hardly ever drink alcohol but this was a special case), I’d be shocked if this came to anything less than 2500 calories – and that is probably being kind. I am probably still making up for this dinner, but as a one-off, it was well worth it.
Food taste: 4.6 / 5 (It was delicious, no doubt about it. There was nothing that I didn’t like, I found the flavours were well balanced and not overpowering, especially considering the heartiness of some of these items. )
Food/table presentation: 4.6 / 5 (I found the table presentation was refined without being pretentious; the food presentation – barring the starter – was a little more on the rustic side, but in a manner which fit the dish and restaurant. The dishes weren’t elaborately decorated, but they were appetising and inviting.)
Service: 4.7 / 5 (Service was attentive, courteous, and we very much appreciated our little doughnut balls. I wasn’t sure about the red wine at first, which was fine after we let it breathe for a while, but they had offered to change it for us if we weren’t satisfied after it rested – which was very kind and appreciated, and fortunately not needed. )
Atmosphere/decor: 4.4 / 5 (The restaurant is charming and simple, with little elegant touches that are subtle and don’t feel too ornate but enough to make it feel special. It’s not a big restaurant, and it adds to the feeling of coziness. The decor in general is clean and minimal. )
Value for money: 3.3/ 5 (Dinner was not cheap. I wasn’t expecting it to be, and the value is certainly there if you consider the calibre of the food. However, when I considered what I’ve paid for multi-Michelin starred dining in the past and how many additional courses are typically served – amuse bouches, palate cleansers, etc. – this seemed a little high. It’s a lovely experience, and high quality Irish cuisine isn’t easy to find in London – adding to the value of this little jewel of a restaurant – so a points adjustment was made on this basis. )
Overall rating: 4.3/ 5