It's that crazy time of the year again, January sales. I really have nothing I need to buy, but feel compelled to subject myself to the hell that is Oxford Street. After all, there are bargains to be had out there and I don't want to be left out. So, fuelled by a stellar brunch at Johanssons, I jumped on the 12 and made my way up into the heart of town.
Sales time is certainly an odd time of year. People get that evil glint in their eye, fuelled by finding the needle in a haystack, that amazing bargain buried deep within the labyrinth of shops. Me, I just wanted a new jacket. A few hours later, I emerged with an ill fitting jacket, pillowcases for the wrong size pillows and a stripy duvet cover (which surprisingly had nothing wrong with it). After hours of being elbowed and walking into stationary tourists, I got away from the chaos of the main streets and headed towards some coffee.
I wanted to try Milk Bar, which had come highly recommended, but burdened with my slightly rubbish purchases, I traipsed into Fernandez and Wells. And then traipsed straight back out again. You see, F&W has two branches right next to each other, one on Lexington street which sells food and wine, and the branch on Beak Street which is much more of a cafe, focused on selling coffee and cakes. Now located in the right branch, flat white and pasteis de nata ordered, I made myself comfortable in the cosy dining room and quietly supped my coffee. And a pretty decent coffee it was too. I can definitely see why people like the place so much and will be making my way back at some stage to get my hands on one of their famous sandwiches.
Fuelled by coffee, I braved Selfridges and then headed for the main event of the evening, dinner with the Captain and his other half. The Dean Street Townhouse is just one of the raft of new additions to the Capital, but with firm recommendations from @circeplum and good reviews in the Independent and the Standard, the booking was made.
The Dean Street Townhouse is part of the Soho House group, so I guess you know pretty much what to expect. It's cosy, the service is attentive and polite, and the furnishings are the kind that you really want to have in your own home. Food is staunchly British, a growing trend I fully expect to see more of throughout 2010. Whilst my dining partners stuck to firm favourites such as fish & chips and steak, I was intrigued by the mince and boiled potatoes. What could make mince so good, that it could be considered a meal in itself? In the end, I found out that the answer was nothing. It certainly was excellent mince, but good mince and potatoes is still just mince and potatoes.
I got far more enjoyment nibbling on the remnant bone of the ribeye (by far the tastiest morsel of an otherwise insipid and one dimensional steak) and sequestering some of the deliciously minty marrow fat peas that came with the fish and chips. The fish itself was a bit of a let down, having over steamed itself within its prison of weak and ultimately soggy batter. Even a good tartare sauce could not redeem this.
Running out of steam towards the end of the meal, we opted to share a few desserts, and whilst the rice pudding was of a good standard (accompanied by a good dollop of tart raspberry jam), it was the rhubarb fool that stole the show. Tender pieces of stewed rhubarb nestled amongst lashings of vanilla cream. The rhubarb was lightly stewed with a mild bite, and the slight remaining acidity cut nicely through the sweet cream. Full doesn't come into it when desserts are this good, all gone.
I had a lovely evening, but I think that it had more to do with the company than the food. The restaurant itself is buzzing, which is always a good sign, but I cannot say that the food is more than average. The Captain and I go back many years, and meeting up means regaling stories of the good old days, days when we had no worries including mortgages, girlfriends/wives and dreaded job pressures. I guess it was apt that the first dinner of the new decade was with my oldest friend, it's just a shame we had to celebrate it with such an average meal.
Fernandez and Wells (Website) - 73 Beak Street, London W1F 9SR
The Dean Street Townhouse (Website) - 69/71 Dean Street, London W1D 3SE