Fine–dining–guide made a return visit to Odette’s in Primrose Hill to sample the delights of the summer menu.
Bryn William’s restaurant continues to attract a loyal following in the prosperous neighbourhood and from those further afield.
In good weather, greater opportunities for alfresco eating are offered in the front terrace and the inner garden. Inside, those who find the eclectically designed front room with its cramped tables, chintzy wallpaper, wall lamps and metal chandeliers overwhelming can seek refuge in the more spacious back room which has been tastefully refurbished with display shelving and comfortable banquettes.
With a brigade of just five in the kitchen, Bryn continues toproduce seriously accomplished cooking, confirming hisplace amongst the leading young chefs in the capital. That he has not yet been awarded a Michelin star – it must surely be just a matter of time – remains a mystery. Both simple and complex dishes delight with their precision in cooking and generosity of serving. Eating at Odette’s can be a relative bargain, especially the set lunch and early evening menu, with two courses at £16, three at £20. On the carte, the quality and sheer range luxury ingredients, along with a wide choice, more than justify the price structure: starters range from £8 to £14, mains £16 to £25, desserts from £8 to £10 and cheese at £12. For those who are defeated by the embarrassment of choice, a six course tasting menu is available at £60, or £90 with matching wines. (£50 /£80 for the vegetarian option)
Bryn’s current menu fully exploits the brilliant, well sourced produce of summer. Consider, for instance, the lunch dishes of chilled tomato soup, lamb fillet with pea and mint risotto or Parmesan gnocchi with asparagus, broad beans and pesto and a dessert of strawberry soup with spiced bread ice cream.
These dishes capture much of the rich colours and vibrant, fresh flavours of the season. This continues into the carte, with summer vegetable tart with Jerusalem artichoke, radish and herb salad, or braised fennel, grilled courgette, black olive gnocchi and aubergine puree. Both these options also show the strength and versatility of Bryn’s Mediterranean influenced vegetarian cookery.
Our summer lunch dishes, left to the chef’s discretion, showcased his signature dish as well as new creations.
A starter of hand dived scallops, beautifully seared to produce a caramelised crust and soft melting flesh, worked well with confit chicken wing and a light chicken jus. The whole dish was lifted by a sublime puree of new season’s garlic, delicate sweet and fragrant. A crisp, vibrant white wine complemented this dish well. (Wine: Chenin blanc, Dry Creek, California, 2009)
Another starter of wood pigeon saw the breast roasted to a tender pink, with a pastilla of its leg, both resting on a thin jus flavoured with chocolate. A foie gras croquette added an unctuous richness, whilst pickled cherries gave a sweet and sour astringency which balanced the other elements perfectly. Like all the dishes, this was stunning in its artistic yet restrained presentation. The chosen red wine did full justice to the robust flavours of this dish. (Wine: Cotes du Rhone, “Haut du Brun”, Alain Jaume, 2009)
Heading the list of main courses, Bryn’s signature dish, showcased in BBC’s Great British menu for the Queen’s 80th birthday, revealed his creativity at its best. It was a triumphant marriage of turbot and oxtail. The pan roasted, golden crusted, firm textured and fully flavoured fish worked well with the slow cooked, meltingly tender boneless oxtail. Cockles and samphire added texture and element of salinity, complementing the fish. Red wine jus and garlic foam completed this composite, sophisticated dish, one which it will impossible to take off the menu, regardless of season. This distinctive dish deserved a fine accompaniment, which the lightly floral and fruity notes of the chosen white wine supplied.
(Wine: Macon Villages, Louis Chedeville, 2009)
Noisettes of Elwy Valley lamb from Bryn’s native Wales were cooked pink to retain their exceptional sweetness, whilst a wrapping of fat helped also to retain their succulence. A baton of shredded lamb shoulder, crumbed and deep-fried, added richness and textural contrast. Vegetable accompaniments of fondant potato and peas, baby gem lettuce and mint in the French style, enhanced the dish well. Of particular note is the quality and skilled cooking of the fresh peas, which avoided reducing them to unpalatable bullets! The big, full flavoured palate with berry aromas of the red wine proved a fine accompaniment. (Wine: Cotes du Rhone, “Haut du Brun”, Alain Jaume, 2009)
Desserts showed the same creativity and attention to detail as the other courses.
A playful interpretation of the seventies’ shop bought classic was Bryn’s Arctic roll. His version replaced ice cream with an intense lemon curd. Cranachan with raspberries provided an appropriate balancing garnish
Equally delicious was the rich, moist Pistachio cake, which worked particularly well with apple puree and calvados cream. Both desserts were enhanced by the well balanced sweet wine.
(Wine: Muscat de Rivesaltes, J M Lafage, Roussillon.)
Other aspects of the meal – the well made breads, the good coffee, and the knowledgeable and attentive service – were all beyond reproach. (However, it might be useful on hot summer days for mineral water to be chilled). Overall, eating at Odette’s is a joy, even if some of the décor is not to everyone’s taste. The consistency with which Bryn Williams delivers high quality dishes must surely stand his restaurant in good stead for Michelin star recognition. We await the publication of the next guide with interest.