Upstairs at the Ten Bells

When Upstairs at the Ten Bells converted into a permanent home for the chefs of Young Turks and Clove Club, and then Clove Club turned into a permanent restaurant nearby too, I knew that I was definitely missing out on something.  Last week, we decided to try out one of the most talked about London restaurants in the last year.

The fact that the restaurant is attached to a pub is very much a pro, because we are definitely pre-dinner drinks people.  It's fine to get a pint downstairs and bring it up with you.  Once upstairs, the wine menu is very reasonable and they also serve Meantime beers. What's better is that it's still a pub, though there's nothing special about the bar itself.  However, the small dining room upstairs seems to remain a pub setting.  This place really hits the overdone "gastropub" nail on the head.

The menu was exactly as what was seen online.  I found the snacks and starters more enticing than the entrees.  Still we felt obliged to try some of everything.

Of course we had to try the buttermilk chicken and pine salt.  I was happy with the actual size of the chicken bites, very appropriate for a snack.  This was perfectly fried chicken, the meat was incredibly juicy and flavorful.  Along with the sprinkled pine salt, it all tasted too salty and didn't have the strong pine flavor as I was expecting and the bed of pine needles itself didn't really add much to the taste or scent.

For the next starter we had a special start of morels, onions and fried duck egg.  The morels were bathed in a creamy garlic sauce.  The duck egg was fried perfectly and the charred onions were slightly sweet.  Couldn't really find anything to fault about this dish.

For the first main, we had the venison with butternut squash, dandelion and granola.  I really like venison in general and this was no exception.  This dish is on the sweet side but it still strikes a nice balance between sweet and savory.  The meat was so tender I forgot about how lean it actually is.  The butternut squash was blended into a puree, and along with the granola, gave the meat a lovely nutty flavor.  The dandelion was good, though not really sure if it added much.  Still I welcome anything green on a plate.  My only disappointment was the portion size as I definitely could have used more butternut squash. 

The next entree was the lamb saddle, spelt, artichokes and nettle. We are clearly carnivores.  Once again, the meat was beautiful cooked.  This lamb was very fatty and slightly too gamey for my taste, but Matt (a lamb lover) enjoyed it.  The puree of nettle did help balance against the richness.  I liked the spelt with this, it was something different and gave the dish more texture.

Both the entrees were fairly small in portion so in typical fashion we had to get a dessert.  However there was still one thing that I kept going back to and that was the smoked mackerel tartare.  This qualifies as dessert too right?  I'm glad we got this because it was the best dish of the night.  It was salty, smokey, creamy... even though it wasn't sweet I ate it slowly as if it were a gooey chocolate fudge dessert. 

In terms of getting good seasonal British food at reasonable prices, Upstairs at the Ten Bells is a winner.  Having heard and read about all the great reviews, I did have higher expectations, which were not met, and therefore I wouldn't go running back immediately. 

1 snack, 2 starters, 2 entrees, 2 beers = £70 inc. service. 
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