Once a specialist fish eaterie, Michael Nadra's restaurant in London's Chiswick now bears his name and offers an expanded menu, serving both meat and fish dishes in equal measure. James Stagg reports
Having moved away from specialising in fish dishes in his restaurant's previous incarnation, Fish Hook, Michael Nadra has expanded his repertoire to include meat and make his offer more inclusive. Nadra has run his now eponymous restaurant in Chiswick, west London for five years, but only since its relaunch in March has it borne his name and offered meat and fish in equal measure.
The classically trained chef - who has worked at Chez Bruce, La Trompette, Putney Bridge and the Atlantic, having completed stages at the Square in Mayfair and the Glasshouse in Kew - decided that broadening his offer would attract more custom.
"It became apparent that in the UK we aren't fish lovers," he says. "It wasn't going badly but I knew we could do better so I decided to cook meat again."
Having missed using meat in his modern French cuisine, Nadra's decision was also personal. He says that being restricted to fish became monotonous for both him and his three-strong kitchen brigade, who were keen to learn a wider range of skills, including butchery.
The menu now makes full use of all available produce, with a comprehensive à la carte menu accompanied by a tasting menu (£42 for six courses, with paired wines an additional £25) and a prix fixe menu (two courses for £13.50, three courses from £16). It might now be meatier, but the restaurant still features evidence of its former incarnation. Around the walls hang prints of dolphins, octopus and other sea dwellers.
Some favourites have survived on the menu too. Among the detailed dishes is seared yellowfin tuna with soft shell crab tempura, king prawn dumpling and oriental salad (£8.50). The Japanese-influenced dish represents real value, being almost three starters in one. The pink, lightly seared tuna is joined by delicately battered crab and a faultlessly fishy dumpling alongside a salad bursting with Asian flavours. The ingredients may not be local, but there are some flavours worth going the extra mile for.
"We try to keep it seasonal but dishes like the softshell crab I will go as far as I have to go to get," explains Nadra. "In London there are many specialist suppliers so it's not a problem to get fresh ingredients from distant shores, although you pay a premium."
Another favourite among the starters is a terrine of pork, foie gras, chicken, wood pigeon and rabbit with walnuts and celeriac rémoulade (£8.50). The terrine is rich, smooth and meaty and served with warm toast.
Mains include red mullet with brown shrimps, crushed new potatoes, Jerusalem artichoke, leeks and truffles (£17). The long list of ingredients is daintily combined as a dressing of olive oil, lemon, shrimps and red onion sitting on top of the fish alongside lightly pickled leeks that again reference Japanese cuisine.
"I like the way the Japanese balance richness with acidity," says Nadra. "They have it right in terms of thinking about flavours and playing on the tastebuds."
Justifying Nadra's move from fish, the most popular dish on the menu is aged Scotch fillet steak with triple-cooked chips, spinach, onion purée and sauce poivrade (£22). The steak is complimented by the smoky greens and rich hearty sauce, with chips served on the side.
"It's kind of a safety dish," says Nadra. "It's a good steak and it brings people back."
Desserts (all £6) revert to French favourites and include an apple tart tatin with cinnamon and Calvados ice-cream, chocolate fondant with salted caramel and vanilla ice-cream, and artisan English and French farmhouse cheeses (£5 supplement).
Nadra says that since the name and menu change, business has been more brisk. Lunchtime trade has also improved, particularly earlier in the week.
"Business has picked up since we moved back to meat but it's difficult to say whether it's simply because we've relaunched or because of the product," he adds.
Restaurant Michael Nadra, 6/8 Elliot Road, London W4 1PE
Tel: 020 8742 0766, www.restaurant-michaelnadra.co.uk
What's on the menu