As part of his first foray into the London culinary scene, Chef Hulstone has put together a menu full of sustainably-sourced, fresh ingredients, which takes flavours from throughout the world and applies them to dishes from closer to home.
The checkerboard of cured Fjord trout, cucumber, and natural yoghurt is bound together by soy and Cornish dulse powder, giving it a salty, caramel flavour, which cuts through the richness of the fish and brings out the sour notes in the yoghurt.
The flavour of the meaty pave of Brixham Hake – a sustainably-sourced fish – is set against the salt and slight acidity of a Cornish seaweed butter, bright pickled onion, and a thicket of tender samphire. One bite and you are at the seaside.
Chef Hulstone's more complex dishes are his downfall. ‘The more elements you add, the more there is to criticise,’ Hulstone said, explaining his journey from working in kitchens as a teenager to earning his star in 2006. It is this focus on simplicity he credits for his success.
The 'Crispy New Zealand lamb', which fundamentally looks and tastes like a spicy lamb fish-finger, is the weakest dish on the menu, while seemingly having required the most work – the meat is cooked, shredded, mixed with a blend of herbs, and then cooked again. The rich, dark flavours of lamb, caraway, and spices do play out well on the canvas of ricotta curd, but the salsa verde and gooseberries do not provide enough acid to counterbalance their heaviness.
However, the weaker dishes and cocktails are rescued by desert. The lemon Verbena infused buttermilk panna cotta, topped with raspberries and raspberry jus, is a brilliantly conceived and well-balanced pudding that manages to be both creamy and refreshing.
The Elephant at the Gardening Society provides excellent food at an affordable price – nothing on the menu breaks £15. When Simon Hulstone’s residency ends on 24 September, the restaurant will shut until the end of October. Another chef, to be decided, will take up residency for the winter season.
Simon Hulstone is not a London chef – he was raised in Torquay and has only worked once in the Greater London area. So, this may be your only chance to enjoy his food in the capital. If you’re unable to make it to the Elephant at the Gardening Society, well, now you have another reason to go to South Devon. Reportedly, the food at the Elephant down in Torquay is even better.
The restaurant can accommodate walk-ins, but we’d recommend booking a day or two ahead of time, more if there’s been a run of good weather. If you want an evening in style, you can book cabins for a more secluded dining experience. From 12-2pm and 5-6:30pm every day, 2- or 3-course set menus are available for £19 and £24.50 respectively.
|The Elephant at the Gardening Society
|John Lewis, 300 Oxford St, John Lewis Shopping Centre, Sixth Floor, W1A 1EX | MAP
|Oxford Circus (underground)
01 Aug 17 – 24 Sep 17, 12:00 PM – 10:00 PM