The Gladwin brothers' mission is clear in their fourth restaurant, with its southern England influence coming through in more than just name. James Stagg reports
The aim of the Gladwin Brothers has always been to bring a slice of rural Sussex to London. And with their fourth venture in the capital, they've spelled out that mission.
The brothers have dropped the small plates on offer at their other London sites, Rabbit, the Shed and Nutbourne, in favour of a more traditional starter, main, dessert menu, while retaining the focus on seasonal game and vegetables.
"It's a little more formal here," explains chef-director Oliver Gladwin, who works alongside his restaurateur brother Richard.
The site itself in London's Soho has some pedigree, having been home to Bruno Loubet's Bistro Bruno, as well as Frith Street, where both Stephen Terry and Jason Atherton plied their trade, and more recently Anthony Demetre and Will Smith's Arbutus.
The Gladwins are putting their stamp on the restaurant with wooden panelling, grey-blue banquettes and wine-themed artwork inspired by the family's Nutbourne vineyard.
As for the food, Oliver explains: "Across all the sites, my vision has been to create simple but delicious, colourful, flavourful, seasonal food, which showcases the ingredients. We don't try and mess with too many things – just to show the produce for what it is."
The majority of produce comes from Oliver and Richard's brother's farm in West Sussex, where Gregory Gladwin raises cattle, pigs, sheep and goats, as well as sourcing vegetables and game from local suppliers.
"All of our animals come in whole and we skin our own deer, squirrel and hare," Oliver adds."I like to teach all the chefs butchery to make sure they know where everything comes from, how we're using all parts of the animal. It's a good skill and it helps them respect the ingredients. It's the same with carrots and beetroots – we use the beetroot tops and carrot peelings for powders. It's a sustainable-minded way of cooking, and it helps the food margin."
From the snacks section – and served across all the Gladwin restaurants – is an intriguing-sounding mushroom Marmite éclair. It's a rich bite of choux pastry filled with an earthy mushroom mix, topped with confit egg yolk, and though it doesn't actually contain Marmite, it does feature all the umami associated with the spread.
"It's iconic now for us," Oliver says. "It was made up one weekend after I found some mushrooms getting a bit tired and put them in the hot cupboard to dehydrate over the weekend. I made a powder from them, which I emulsified with oil and enriched with egg yolk, balanced with vinegar, sugar and truffle. And it became an umami-filled, delicious condiment."
While these dishes are undoubtedly crowdpleasers, the real theatre is reserved for the Wellington, which can be deer, hare, mallard, venison or even lobster tail, depending on the season. Each is served for two to share, complete with a wood-handled carving knife stabbed through the centre of the glistening pastry.
"We serve many different types," confirms Oliver. "We use beef too, but we like to keep it interesting. After all, every animal with four legs has a loin and that's how we like to use it."
Another attention-grabbing dish is the squirrel tortellini, which isn't a protein often seen on British menus, despite the abundance of the animals. "We like to use whatever the countryside gives us. It's a flavourful meat and if you tenderise it properly and cook it correctly, it can be delicious," Oliver explains.
To tenderise the meat, he freezes the squirrels and skins them with pliers while they're defrosting. The meat is then cured in sugar, salt and other aromats (including coriander, allspice, thyme, rosemary) for six to 10 hours before being confited. A sauce is made from a stock of the frames, as well as chicken and turkey stock.
In keeping with the theme, desserts include a Sussex pond pudding. Traditionally made with suet pastry containing a poached lemon, Oliver's version features a lemon mousse encased in a lemon-shaped cocoa butter shell, served on a suet madeira cake sponge with poached apple, lemon curd and burnt butter custard.
Though, like all other restaurants in the UK, Sussex is currently closed, the Gladwin brothers are using their resources and supplier network to create a farm food delivery business to help prop up the group during lockdown.
We don't try and mess with too many things, just show the produce for what it is
When Sussex – and indeed their other restaurants – reopens, the rock-solid supply chain they've nurtured will mean they're in a great position to thrive once more. And when they do, we'll be first in line for the Wellington.
63-64 Frith Street, Soho, London W1D 3JW
From the menu
- Tempura garden herbs, sweet chilli £4
- Stone bass and herb croquettes, aïoli £5
- Partridge saltimbocca, pancetta, smoked gouda, red kale, mustard cream £9.50
- South Downs hare ragù, egg yolk, pappardelle, tarragon, English pecorino £9
- Rainbow carrots, black garlic, camomile gel, puffed wild rice, thyme jus £18.50
- Oxford Sandy and Black pork loin, cured belly, lardo, leaves, hazelnuts £22
- Fallow deer, faggot, salsify, chestnut and chocolate, dandelion, pear vinaigrette £24.50
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