It was a rather beautiful day in early May when a group of us visited Paradise Garage to celebrate William’s birthday.
Having wanted to visit Robin Gill’s restaurants for some time (owner of the ever-popular Dairy and Manor restaurants in Clapham), I can’t say that I was disappointed by William’s choice of venue, Robin’s third and latest venture, the ultra-hip east London “Paradise Garage” for his birthday celebrations.
Located conveniently amongst a strip of buzzing bars with outdoor seating, perfect for these summers evenings (who am I kidding?), the restaurant is spread over two floors, but all open plan, which makes the space very bright & airy.
A refurbished railway arch with dark wooden tables and vintage chairs, white splash-back tiling, exposed dangling lightbulbs, antique mismatched crockery and a bar topped with bark-edged logs above which a vast array of herbs sit caged behind metal grilles, Paradise Garage is the epitome of “on trend”.
Our large party was seated upstairs; a much smaller area than downstairs giving a feeling of intimacy, whilst still allowing us to share in the restaurant’s atmosphere.
Welcome cocktails of choice were ordered.
Before salivating over the tasting menu for the evening (£45pp) and deciding whether to go the whole hog and sign up for the drink pairing too (£35pp).
The food is very much focused on “best of British”, using seasonal produce but giving it a modern artsy-fartsy twist.
We began the feast with the breaking of bread.
Sourdough bread, smoked whiskey butter and salami.
So we’re all familiar with that happy tummy feeling when you get epic bread in the bread basket at a restaurant, but when you get good butter as well, THAT is when you have really hit the jackpot and love heart emojis start escaping your eyeballs.
In case you hadn’t already guessed, the butter was INSANE. Insane, insane, insane. Smokey with a note of barreled whisky, it had a milky texture and was utterly divine.
I can’t even think about how much of this hand-churned gold we must have gotten through.
With a ‘snack’ of something beetrooty & earthy, our “new British” menu was underway.
First up was salt cod brandade, squid ink, olives and shellfish crisp.
A light dish, I enjoyed the flavour of the salt cod, olive oil and squid ink emulsion, but found the focus on the shellfish crisp an odd once since the crisps were totally devoid of taste and thus the dish was essentially a sauce.
Things got much more exciting with the arrival of the lamb heart, fennel kimchi and black pepper.
The lamb was cooked beautifully, pink and exceptionally tender, with the fennel a powerful and crunchy veg accompaniment and the kimchi sauce heating things up a little.
A truly excellent dish.
Julie Girl’s monkfish tartare, cod roe, tropea onion and sorrel was yummy enough, though I think they could have afforded to be slightly more generous with the monkfish.
That said, the fish was very delicate & delicious (and a new one for me raw!), and carried the earthy flavours of the sorrel and crispy onions very well.
As a devout carnivore, I was surprised to find that the asparagus, peas, charred gem lettuce and confit onion was my favourite dish of the evening.
I feel that it encapsulated Robin’s philosophy & style, and the balance of flavours & textures that his restaurant’s aim to achieve with every experimental dish that they produce perfectly.
So simple, yet exceptional.
If my greens tasted that good at every meal I might even be swayed veggie! (Only joking, but seriously, it was immense.)
Having reached the very tip of the iceberg it was only natural for a fall to come sooner or later, which came for me in the form of Lady Hamilton’s smoked Pollock, Norfolk Peer potatoes, pied de mouton and seaweed.
The Pollock was seriously overcooked and rubbery, the seaweed bitter and the overall dish lacking oomph (and sauce).
But meat saved the day (when does it ever not?!), as the Chart Farm venison haunch, charred celeriac, broad beans and bone marrow broth was an absolutely winning dish.
^ Just LOOK at that meat! I can feel it melting in my mouth now.
The charred celeriac was a great choice of accompaniment to the smoky, rich venison and I enjoyed the pop of freshness from the occasional broad bean.
Looking back at the end of our ‘mains’, I would say that the food up until this point was an overall success as despite disliking some of the dishes, or thinking that they could have been executed better, when they got it right, THEY GOT IT RIGHT!
At this stage in the menu one can opt to order a selection of Neal’s Yard cheeses (£3.50 supplement pp), though none of us did.
Instead ploughing on to the palate cleanser of yoghurt, peas and tarragon.
As weird & wonderful as it sounds; once you got past the initial shock of creamy, sour yoghurt paired with sweet, crunchy peas, I found it to be rather enjoyable.
And most cleansing for the espresso martinis!
Nothing beats smiles and laughter at a b’day do!
For pud there was a choice of two:
Chocolate ganache, nettle sorbet, burnt apple and almond.
Or buckwheat ice-cream and biscuit, loquats and sorrel oil.
No prizes for guessing which I chose unfortunately!
Or for being able to picture the smug smile on my face when that chocolate beauty got laid before me.
The base had a chewy, gooey macaron texture, whilst the flavours of nettle and apple balanced each other wonderfully and the crunchy, sugared almonds only added to the party in my mouth.
As for the short straw-ers around the table, they got some superfood plant ice-cream with fruit doused in plant oil.
Alllllllllll the glory!
No, in fairness, it was actually quite nice, and the people that chose it did so because they wanted something light & refreshing, which is exactly what they got, so everyone was a happy camper!
Having now been to one of Robin’s restaurants I can say that the food is exactly as I imagined; most of it daring, most of it delicious. I like the ambition in the cooking and I think it’s really important that chefs have the ambit to get creative and take risks with their food.
The dishes comprised of ingredient combinations unlike any I’ve had elsewhere, and I really enjoyed the experience. The fact that I would still like to visit the Dairy and Manor is testament enough in itself.
Some really delicious and exciting food (which ended on a serious high), excellent service, a cool space and great company – what more can you ask for?
Happy birthday William!