Fallow – the successful zero waste pop-up at 10 Heddon Street – has finally found a permanent temple of sustainability in St James’s Market, attracting fans of their mushroom parfait and devilled lamb tongues to where the Piccadilly branch of Duck and Waffle used to be.
The concept, founded by chefs Will Murray and Jack Croft (formerly of Dinner by Heston Blumenthal) and restaurateur James Robson, is of course laudable in itself but one wonders whether trumpeting about using up leftovers and cooking the whole animal – an idea that isn’t exactly new – is no more than an effective marketing tool, merely making a virtue-signalling opportunity out of necessity. The proof would be in the pudding (in this case an excellent pumpkin soufflé, but we’ll get to that).
Perhaps it’s harsh to be judging a place so cynically before even stepping foot inside, but that in itself was the first challenge. Whilst every other restaurant just before Christmas was either closing early due to staff testing positive for the Covids, or simply too quiet to justify opening, all of London’s diners seemed to be piled into Fallow St. James’s. Booking is only possible via Resy with no email address or phone number. This is all fine if things go to plan, but what if you’re running late and need to communicate this to the restaurant? On this visit, I was delayed due to the most ridiculous of middle class Uber-related reasons, and desperately tried to get through to the restaurant but couldn’t. For the avoidance of doubt, I’m completely on the side of restaurants in the no show crisis – something needs to be done to address the entitled mindset of some customers that they think it’s OK not to show up for their table. I’m slightly less sympathetic though when a restaurant doesn’t allow you the means to communicate that you will still be there. I would’ve had more luck with a carrier pigeon. (I still can’t find any contact details on the website – please correct me if this is not the case).
It didn’t matter in the end, since my arrival was within the grace period anyway, but the welcome was understandably frosty. A Martini at the bar put things right and a request to sit at the kitchen counter accommodated as soon as space freed up.
The kitchen counter is certainly preferable, as the restaurant is a boisterous, aircraft hangar of a space, totalling 150 covers. Watching the quiet coordination in the kitchen was more thrilling than a ballet: the whole brigade worked together courteously and appeared to actually enjoy their work. Quite the opposite of Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen or Stephen Graham’s just released shot-in-one-take film Boiling Point, which normalise shoutiness, stress and abuse in kitchens, the serene kitchen at Fallow St James’s is a far better advert for a career in hospitality.
Prices can be punchy though, despite the apparent desire to eke out every drop from produce, where you’d think the fish heads would cover the overheads. The £14 house Martini is nearer to the Dukes’ price point than the £5 Negroni at Brutto (that’s attributable to the postcode I suppose – nearby Maison Francois’ Negronis are £13 for instance).
My minor misgivings about value and ambience aside, the food is very good. Following the aperitif, a lovely plate of charcuterie arrived, simply served with cornichons. Next, two smoked sausages looking like fried bananas. As Keith Floyd once put it, “the humble sausage is the most underrated food in the gastronomic world” and of course one of the most obvious and fabulous ways to use up leftover bits of animal. Fallow’s sausages were rich with flavour and texture and clearly of decent provenance.
The Fallow tartar, taken from their greatest hits collection, was a masterclass in effective simplicity, whilst the Cornish ceviche excited with its chilli and lemon curing. Then, from their main dish section, a fillet steak from their famously-sourced retired dairy cows, was absolutely perfect. Sadly, the boulangère potatoes on the side were slightly overdone and didn’t justify an additional £6.50.
Finally, a pumpkin soufflé, made by pastry chef Anna Williams, was a delightful coda to the meal. Simply beautiful in its execution, especially with spicy ginger ice cream melting into a crater in the centre. Meanwhile, just when I thought we’d all seen the back of sourdough from those halcyon lockdown days, seeing it here in soft serve form was inspired – though, again, somewhat pricey at £8 for essentially a scoop of ice cream.
The whole experience, whilst not blemish-free, left me pining for a return visit, though at a quieter time of day – and, of course, making sure I’m on time.
2 St James's Market
by J A Smith