Myrtle in Chelsea opened in May 2019 – OK, so we’re a little late to the party in visiting but then sizeable chunks of time have been lost to the pesky pandemic. Fortunately we were able to visit just before Christmas and look forward to returning to this lovely Irish restaurant in 2021. So should you.
Run by Dublin-born Anna Haugh (an alumnus of Bob Bob Ricard, The Square and Pied a Terre amongst others), the name itself is an homage to Ireland’s first Michelin-starred chef, the late Myrtle Allen. Perhaps Haugh has similar Michelin ambitions but there isn’t a scintilla of pretension in her cuisine. The restaurant has a casual neighbourhood feel and there’s clearly a family vibe too. Anna’s cousin Daniel Haugh is General Manager: he answered my phone call in a chipper voice and pleasingly remembered our request for a table upstairs on arrival. The sommelier also works part-time at nearby Palate favourite Medlar. Service under both of their direction was excellent throughout – glasses replaced without prompting, an appropriate level of interaction and of course all masked and socially distanced.
The décor is all pastel greens against beige, the tables adorned with unobtrusive globe lamps emanating soft and flattering light. All crockery and glassware is sourced from the Emerald Isle too. Perhaps the only bit of corniness is the music but at least it’s folk rather than pop: I prefer an Irish jig to The Corrs any day.
All of this set the right mood, aided by the Myrtle Martini (£10) to get the juices flowing. Personally I found the Cointreau and myrtle berry syrup pushed this too far in the sweet direction but those who don’t like their Martinis as dry as Oscar Wilde’s wit will have their bouches amused.
Speaking of amuse bouches, there then followed what appeared to be a small bowl of potpourri. A warming, creamy vegetable soup was added to it, the potpourri turning out to be parsnip crisps. Delicious.
Soda bread arrived in a paper bag and each slice was perfectly accompanied by churned creamy butter. That in itself could be lunch.
Goatsbridge hot and cold smoked trout was a very pleasant surprise. From the description I was expecting this to be simply plated but it came in the form of a complex tart with dill, caviar and pickled cucumber for a Scandinavian edge, and beautifully presented too. My companion was equally pleased by the somewhat heartier Clonakilty black pudding, wrapped in potato – a dish from County Cork made to a traditional recipe dating back to the 1880s.
Beef fillet with stuffed boxty (a kind of potato cake from the north-west of Ireland) at £32 was a generous main course showing off Haugh’s classic techniques, the influence of her previous French-leaning restaurants perhaps coming through here, with the boxty and side of buttery, homely colcannon (£4) putting a firm Irish stamp on it. The beef melted in the mouth and the tarragon and confit shallot red wine reduction provided a divine lip-smacking coating.
All desserts and cheese are priced equally around the £10 mark. There were more pan-European classics here such as soufflés and panna cotta but I was intrigued by the chocolate mousse made with Carrageen moss and Guinness sponge. Carrageen moss is rich in natural gelatine thus lending itself beautifully to mousse-like desserts, and its health and cooking benefits were promoted by Myrtle Allen herself. Who would’ve thought a chocolate dessert made from seaweed could be such a delight? It was wonderful and did Allen’s pioneering cuisine justice.
All of that came to just over £100 a head. And just when I want to rave about it we go into another ruddy lockdown. We just need to be patient. Hopefully Myrtle will be waiting for us all on the other side.
1A Langton Street
by J A Smith