I sensed a slight amount of reluctance ahead of my visit to Heddon Street Kitchen. My only previous visit to a Gordon Ramsey Restaurant was Maze many years ago – 2009, still with Atherton at the helm – and I remember being somewhat disappointed with the atmosphere and service. I felt it had more style than substance, with good but pricey food and a distinctly dislikeable clientele. Clearly not an objective view but I can’t deny that I expected Heddon Street Kitchen to be of a similar ilk, and unsurprisingly it sort of was.
Suited men and high heeled women, lots of testosterone, attractive waitresses, plenty of wardrobe attendants and doormen. Business dinners, expensive handbags, pretty dresses, private dining rooms, magnum bottles of bubbly, a cocktail balcony and an extensive and expensive wine list. All embedded in an impressive open plan layout with galvanized air conditioning sprawling along the ceilings. Retro light bulbs with mood lighting everywhere. Some Regent Street tourists, possibly disoriented. Well-run, clean, posh and not at all unfamiliar.
Despite my initial moanings I had some mouthwatering food at HSK. The presentation of Maria Tampakis’ dishes is flawless and clean with excellent flavours. I had read about a few particular starters before my visit and we hence opted for the spicy tuna tartare (and all time favourite at Barrafina), the California maki rolls and some baked scallops and additional chicken wings. Don’t frown upon me – I like a chicken wing!
Some people won’t believe this (you know who you are) but the tartare at Heddon Street is as good, if not better, than the one at Barrafina. Mmmh, sesame infused tender tuna chunks with that delicious chilli garlic dip – absolutely divine! Also, wonton crisps are a revelation and work really well in contrasting the texture of the tuna. I probably could have eaten a bag of the crisps by themselves, but then again, I can eat a bag of almost anything … ehrm – yes, I think HSK is worth a visit for the tartare alone!
I felt a bit “meh” about the idea of ordering california rolls for dinner, but the rich and satisfying snow crab mix taught me otherwise. These might have been the best maki rolls I ever had.
The baked scallops were cooked perfectly with a crisp exterior and sumptuous centre, laying comfortably embedded in between the salsify purée and zingy cress. Flawless dish, you can’t really go wrong with these ingredients, can you?
Last but not least, a special mention to my photoless chicken wings. I devoured them quickly and really enjoyed the crispy tamarind infused skin and juicy interior. Plenty of finger licking!
We only had space for one main course to share after our four starters and ended up with the braised short ribs – a disappointing dish that left me with mixed feelings.
The swede mash tasted like turnip mash, which might make sense, but still was a bit like Sunday Roast leftovers. The meat, while very obviously slow cooked and tender, was actually kind of dry and the bits of fat and connective tissue (ew) felt grizzly without enriching the meat. No, didn’t work for me.
I think what really threw me here was a feeling that the refinement and skill I enjoyed in the starters had all but disappeared and instead we were served a decent pub meal. However, in hindsight I have to take some responsibility for choosing the dish – an odd choice after several fresh & light seafood starters. Who knows how good the other mains could have been …
We finished with a double espresso which came in matching saucer sets, quite adorable and much appreciated by my metrosexual side.
So … a very subjective review with some distinct negatives, but still overall a good experience. At £75 a head (including a £30 bottle of red) not necessarily a bargain and not really the kind of surroundings that I personally like to dwell in, but worth a visit for the starters and potentially the other main courses …
[7/10] Heddon Street Kitchen, 3-9 Heddon Street, W1B 4BE London