On the ground floor of Mortimer House club is the (public) revamped restaurant, Mortimer House Kitchen, marshalled by its Italian chef, Lello Favuzzi. The Italian influences in the food are everywhere although the menu could justifiably be labelled “global” owing to a thoroughly fusion-y, non-specific style of cuisine that is no longer new to London.
Rightly, the restaurant is simply trying to do food well – majoring on quality, not culinary leitmotif. As to the surroundings: they are in the mid-century, slightly Scandi style. This makes for a modern, laid-back setting that, of particular note, contains no more covers than is comfortable for the diners. I always applaud restaurants who gift customers a pleasant level of personal space despite the loss, perhaps, of two or three tables’ worth of income.
You can hardly beat tempura-battered seafood; crispy and pinging with lemon juice
After my head outran my wallet, leading to a bottle of ice-chilled Ruinart Blanc de Blancs being presented to me (no Marie Antoinette glasses however – just flutes), I spotted a number of plates on the menu that appealed. Without actively choosing to go all-out Italian, I found myself ordering soft shell crab fritti in lemon, coriander and chili, and a tagliatelle dish with prawns and courgette flowers. These to me felt like tastes of spring and summer and, washed down with the champers, were likely to be just the ticket on that warm July night.
Those initiate in great Thai food and the hotter end of Italian will know the importance (and controversy over) chili. The zealous use of chili dominates everything, consuming all surrounding flavours in its path like some kind of pepper tornado. The under-use of chili leaves the diner yearning for a bigger zing and zip on their lips and tongue. Mid-way lies the judicious use of this spice – judicious being the adjective I would deploy in relation to the hot, crunchy soft shell crab at Mortimer House. You can hardly beat tempura-battered seafood; crispy and pinging with lemon juice and laced with red chilis. This was one of the finest starts to a meal I’d experienced in months. I guzzled the Ruinart – the bubbling flow of plonk lapping over my palate like sea surf falling and curling on a returning tide.
The main of tagliatelle had enormous shoes to fill. If I have one, minor complaint, it would be that the pasta was a bit too wet – either from poor drainage at the fabrication stage or the sheer fluidity of the sauce. Still, it was mostly within my expectations: good, plump prawns (and enough of them) with sufficiently firm pasta ribbons and a handful of handsome courgette flowers lending colour and verve to the dish.
In an unlikely foray into the dessert end of things (I don’t have a sweet tooth), with outstanding luck or judgment I concluded with a truly fabulous pudding that nearly stole the entire meal. Have you had halva ice cream? I hadn’t until that meal. Wow. Set against firm, sable-style sesame biscuits, the slightly coarse ice cream was bread-like in flavour. It half-reminded me of best bitter from an ale pump. Halva, apparently, is achieved via tahini and nut butters – an innocuous set of ingredients that, when converted to ice cream, brought sheer joy. If you see halva ice cream on a menu, you must try it.
I would return to Mortimer House in a heartbeat. Like other recent experiences – notably Cora Pearl – their dining offering was down-the-middle, solid, free of fuss and extremely agreeable. Together with a reasonable bill for food in that part of town, I have only praise for the place. Perhaps you will laud the restaurant similarly.
41 Mortimer Street
by Cristian Ley