From the moment you walk through the door, they do everything right, with staff always pleasant and courteous while hugely attentive even on small things, like constantly providing fresh ice for our glasses of tap water; on a hot day, such a thoughtful touch is charming and is no doubt one of the reasons why Medlar has become such a favourite of so many people. The menu meanwhile is exciting, and feels fresh and original, so hard to do, but achieved very much because they are doing their own thing, that we applaud. Starters can take you from the very adventurous (calf's brain), through the interesting (confit skate), to the comfortable and familiar (crab raviolo). Only in our post meal research did we find out that the duck egg tart made Time Out's Top 100 Dishes in London.
We opted for 'roast cod cheeks with morteau sausage, fresh borlotti beans, runner beans, courgette and gremolata' as well as the 'confit skate with razor clam vinaigrette, purple sprouting broccoli, globe artichokes, Jersey royals and salsify'. As we tucked into our plates, we both arrived at the same conclusions. When we subsequently enjoyed our mains, the five considerations that defined our starters also seemed apt. Our thoughts were as follows.
First, each dish presented a lovely collection of ingredients on the plate: the combinations and variety were a fantastic showcase of what's good about food. Second, the portion sizes are substantial, my skate starter was only a couple of Jersey Royals short of being the size of a main course elsewhere. Third, the presentation reflects the quantity on the plates, so expect towers of food, and sauces that fill bowls rather than squeezy bottle dots of puree on the side. Fourth, this in our view actually led to an imbalance of ingredients and again, considering the skate starter, I initially thought they had brought the wrong plate to the table for I couldn't see any skate, hidden as it was under the artichoke and broccoli. Fifth and finally, while the food was always good, we felt that it lacked the depth to be great, mostly through under-seasoning, sometimes through lack of contrasts such as acidity on the plate. Salt and pepper is not provided on the table, surprising given that even London's very best like The Ledbury and The Square do provide this, which means that you've got to be pretty damn sure your seasoning is spot on when you serve the food; today, it missed that final lift in our view.
You can see what else we had below, and desserts were pretty fab, especially the chocolate pave, which surely must provide a normal person's weekly ration of the brown stuff. We should also note what tremendous value the menu presents, where at lunch, three courses will set you back just £26 which has to be considered very good value whatever our reservations noted above, even more so when you think that this is in Chelsea.
So the Medlar experience then, in our view, depends on your expectations. If your visit looking for good food, great service and value for money, it's hard to see how you would ever be disappointed, but given that some national newspaper reviews have built up the reputation of Medlar as being somewhere that will deliver you food perfection, you might we think feel a little short changed. But overall, there's much to like about Medlar and it's an original and exciting menu, and at these prices, we can understand why for many, it's a go to restaurant.