Why is it off trend? Let us count the ways: Five Fields is fine dining, yes, we said it, and didn't even feel a need to misspell it. No burger, brasserie or steak house here. It's in Chelsea, not Shoreditch. It is traditional, a Michelin pleaser, expect an amuse bouche (several in fact), pre desserts, petit fours, luxury ingredients and tasting menus. They have table cloths, they take bookings, no one has a visible tattoo while the kitchen is also invisible to the diners. There's not even a little window allowing you to see the top of the chef's heads.
That in itself will be enough for most reviewers to boycott it, or simply damn it before setting a foot through the door, but as was the case with Mark Twain, reports of the death of fine dining have been very much exaggerated. If you don't believe that to be true, try getting a table at Le Gavroche before October. The timing of Five Fields might be smart too if the green shoots of recovery and Lloyds TSB's share price are to be believed. The only thing we find truly quirky about Five Fields is their opening hours: they do not open for lunch and only open for dinner Tuesday to Saturday.
We visit the restaurant anonymously but we're soon recognised by Jason Walker, the Assistant Restaurant Manager, who was previously at The Ledbury and clearly has a good memory for faces. There's also a theme here: Chef Owner Taylor Bonnyman was previously of two starred Corton in New York, Head Chef Marguerite was Marcus Wareing and Pastry Chef Chris Underwood was Tom Aikens. It appears that no chances are being taken on unknowns here, everyone on staff has a serious and Michelin starred hospitality background as far as we could tell.
What should surprise you here however is the price. Three courses at dinner is £45 and the eight course tasting menu (more like 12 courses in fact with all the extras) is £65. This we think is actually very good value and in our view unlikely to last too far beyond the initial opening. Consider that Roast in Borough Market charges £30+ for its main courses alone (without anything like the quality), while a more appropriate comparison, say Kitchen W8, cost us on our lunch time visit around £50 for three courses.
But what of the food? It's actually very good indeed with some real stand out dishes, delivering up food that succeeds in being what it wants to be. By that, we mean that food is more reminiscent of say The Square than Hibiscus, a classical backdrop with modern flourish. There's some, but not so much boundry pushing here, and we don't say that critically. Further off trend, dishes have also eschewed the more recent tendency towards three ingredients or less on a plate (think Dabbous), and instead offer more recognisable, more comfortable but still unquestionably impressive plates of food.
The meal grows on us as we progress through it. After an amuse and pre starter, Crab with a corn sauce looks pretty, tastes good but is never destined to set the world on fire, but this is a menu that builds momentum. The next dish called Summer brings three actual dishes to the table including Serrano Ham in a pork consomme and this begins to feel more like it with us wishing this component at least were several times larger (10x perhaps). Foie Gras in a beetroot gel looks stunning with contrasting colours on the plate while acidity in the gooseberries and crunch from the bed of hazelnuts offer similar contrasts in the mouth to the beautifully smooth foie gras and made a classic luxury ingredient once again feel vibrant.
The bar keeps moving higher and the Scottish lobster is a triumph, issuing an easy challenge to those who say lobster doesn't taste of anything; this is how lobster should taste. Lamb offers a traditional and comfortable end to the savouries but here we delight over a piece of lamb crackling, the best of its kind we have ever tasted I'd wager. The lamb meanwhile packed flavour and shares the qualities of the lobster dish: this is how lamb is supposed to taste and is exactly how it should be cooked.
Special mention goes to desserts which have a strong sense of their own identity and are less traditional than the savouries. Pastry Chef Chris Underwood is formerly Tom Aikens and that complexity and approach to detail that he no doubt inherited from Tom shows through, but most importantly, the desserts really work well. In particular, one dessert pairs the classic combination of Coconut Sorbet and Chocolate (done here as a soil), but adds in garden peas to the dish also giving a clean freshness that tailors it fantastically to the hot weather and prompting you to feel that you've discovered a food revelation. Put it this way, this blog features no other dessert with peas in, and nor do David Everitt-Matthias's or Phil Howard's seminal dessert cookbooks feature peas, but here they made it a highlight of the dessert, and the meal overall. One can only applaud.
For £65, this is an awful lot of food. For £65, this is great food, where huge amounts of time and energy have been expended with quality ingredients to craft dishes that can elbow themselves in and be noticed in a crowded London fine dining scene. It may not be fashionable, but this restaurant knows what it wants to be in food and service and achieves it. For those who care about these things, Five Fields is surely a certainty for a Michelin star. We enjoyed our meal here, we think it offers strong value for money as well as some good old fashioned cosseting. But when we reflect on where else we've been the past six months, Five Fields sticks out, memorable for all the right reasons: these days, given the quality out there, that is not an easy thing to do.