Autumn: a second spring, this time in reverse. Several unmistakable clues announce the arrival of autumn and the subsequent, grim approach of winter – trees relinquishing their leaves, successive 10-degree plummets in temperature, and, perhaps the most reliable indicator of the change in seasons, restaurant menus suddenly blossoming with ‘Autumnal dishes’ and ‘Winter warmers’. With the disappearance of summer comes a renewed need for comfort and richness in our food, temporarily cast aside during the warmer months.
At Goat, a supremely suave, well-upholstered, dimly-lit Italian restaurant and bar on the Fulham Road in Chelsea, they’ve chosen the pumpkin – perhaps the quintessential October squash, if there is such a thing – as their sole autumn champion, the centrepiece upon which the seasonal menu hinges.
Rather like autumn itself, the pumpkin-obsessed dishes at Goat sound appealing in theory, and look beautiful too, but are in fact difficult to truly enjoy and relax into. Pumpkin ravioli with an inspirational helping of crushed amaretti biscuits, burrata and sage consists of three enormous discs of pasta, wide and flat as manta rays, liberally doused in olive oil. Rich, satisfyingly pulverised pumpkin purée oozes from the soft centre, but the edges are tough and underdone. There’s al dente, and there’s ow, where’s my dentist?
My partner tentatively sips rust coloured cream of pumpkin soup, served hotter than the sun and accessorised with a stack of overpoweringly salty garlic bread batons. The texture is a little thin for what is essentially the culinary equivalent of a woolly cardigan, lacking that buttery sweetness so often the hallmark of squash-based soups.
The pumpkin risotto represents another missed opportunity. At once both too runny and too gluey, the unseasoned broth of the stock leaves most of the heavy lifting to the ubiquitous cubes of pumpkin, which are victims of another under-cooking. Hard edges have no place in a risotto. Meanwhile a spinal column of crispy fried shallots runs down the middle of the bowl, like an unruly mountain range. It lends the dish a welcome umami kick, but the flavours and textures interfere with one another, failing to fuse.
Thankfully the pumpkin pie delivers on the promises of the season. Served with a shard of peanut brittle implanted on its tea coloured surface and a sliver of pungent, delicate vanilla ice-cream, the pie shares the texture of a good feta cheese, at once crumbly and soft, with alternating mouthfuls of smoothness and bumpiness. The pastry is pleasingly scorched around the edges and buttery in the middle. It’s the strongest and most insistent representative for this season’s subtle, indulgent pleasures, and proof that pumpkin can prosper.
Goat is a quirky, individual Italian place with an amazing bar – the hidden speakeasy chamber, tucked away upstairs, is eerily authentic, like a high budget film set of a Scorsese gangster movie – but there’s a sense that the true feeling of autumn is largely missed. Still, a slice of pumpkin pie, paired with a piping hot coffee, will set you up for winter. And, ultimately, that’s what autumn is all about.
333 Fulham Road
Tel: 020 7352 1384