They say never judge a book by its cover and we seldom don’t. The same probably applies to Eighty-Six restaurant because for all its brilliance – and I don’t use that word lightly – many Londoners are likely to deem this place posh, pretentious and overpriced upon reading past the postcode. Being a Made in Chelsea hangout might deter diners but give it a chance and you will reap the rewards as Eighty-Six delivers tastefulness in all areas particularly where it counts.
Sat on one of the more affluent roads in London within an old three-storey Georgian townhouse, 86 Fulham Road’s opulence is both visible and audible from afar, as was my appreciation of the manly Mint Julep and Eighty-Six Club cocktails we had after arriving.
As I sipped the former, served in a cocktail shaker with crushed ice aplenty, I fancied everything I saw; the theatre green room-esque bauble lights, vintage mismatched mirrors on the ceiling, the quirky ancestral portraits and playful photography that lined the walls; everything.
Cocktails sunk, it was time for dinner upstairs. The buzz from below filtered up into the dining area providing an ambience the right side of intrusive. The menu; where to start? Full credit – and then some – to head Chef Simon Levy, for making every decision so difficult. Whilst I can’t mention everything, I can wax lyrically about my faves.
To start, the Macaroni cheese. Oh my. Add snails, bacon and garlic croutons and serve rustically in individual pots. That equals heaven. A more lady friendly option is venison carpaccio elegantly arranged with pea shoots, parsnip crisps and radish puree. Meaty but finger-lickingly fresh.
Main events; er, hello! Duck burger with seared foie gras and chips, how lovely to meet you. Subtle oriental flavours come through in the salsa on top, the red cabbage beneath the succulent burger is a welcome surprise and the chunky chips are unsurprisingly moreish. For a more light-hearted main, the stuffed saddle of rabbit or Arctic cod received ample attentions and both wouldn’t look out of place as artwork at the Royal Academy.
To finish, two puddings asked politely to be devoured; the Chocolate Mousse Cake, Mint and Honeycomb and the Pimms Jelly with Cucumber Sorbet. We duly obliged. The latter is like a glass of summer on a plate freshened further by the cucumber; that was gone in a trice.
As for the former, the naughtiness of the honeycomb turned the rich chocolate mousse on its mint mascarpone dipped nose. Greg Wallace would be in his element. A bottle of Crozes-Hermitage La Touvière 2009 was the perfect tonic for the duration.
Needless to say, a mint tea later I left feeling a lot of love for this place. I would challenge Eighty-Six on one count though, and that’s its versatility. The cocktails downstairs were great and there was a real buzz about the place all night, but for me the food was the biggest yet most disguised asset. Many of Eighty-Six’s suitors may have double-barrelled surnames and money to burn but do they have the foggiest idea what impressive culinary skills are lurking upstairs? Less gastro, more gourmet.
Social prejudices aside, Simon Levy and Eighty-Six are a fantastic combination. Not to be missed.
86 Fulham Road
Tel: 020 7052 9620