This review was originally published in April 2017. Unfortunately the restaurant has since closed.
Between Surrey and the corridor to Fulham sits Wimbledon village: a micro-haven of wealth and bijoux retail. Packed all summer with dog-walkers and tennis fans, the village in cooler months bears a more mellow feel, conducive to shorter queues in its pubs and a noticeable reduction in posey cars in the thoroughfare.
A good number of upmarket brands contribute to the Chelsea-esque qualities of the village, such as Reiss, Comptoir de cotonniers and Neal’s Yard Dairy. With these exist a variety of antiques shops and independent offerings. The food scene there is blended similarly. Of the four or five non-chain restaurants is The White Onion – a venue of broadly French influence that opened two years ago.
Being a fan of the gently lit and calmer side of indoor spaces, the restaurant was virtually perfect in terms of ambience: quality furnishings, unobtrusive wall lighting and a total absence of bad background music. Even the banquette seating, in which I was put, had been set up with a decent bit of space between each table.
The White Onion more than holds its own when up against its inner London contemporaries
I was grateful to be handed the wine list and offered water within seconds of seating. The list, in passing, is impressive. In particular, the French section is well thought out, with a diverse range of Burgundies and representation from some of the more esoteric appellations. Wine-wise, The White Onion more than holds its own when up against its inner London contemporaries.
The pleasant service experience continued with the good pace of the meal: not too long to have orders taken; the doling out of quality bread; the receipt of starters reasonably promptly. Mine was a poached duck egg with duck meat, prepared with visual appeal. The egg, still hot, gave bright yolk when lanced, while the duck shreds were tender and free from dryness. A Nuits-St-Georges from the middle of the wine list’s price range paired well.
When mains followed after a little while, the kitchen’s innovation came to light. Never having had lamb Wellington, I opted for it, together with a side of broccoli fried in chickpea batter. The result in both cases was excellent. The lamb was at the rare end of medium; the pastry and savoury strata full of flavour and richness. The dish worked and credit to The White Onion for daring to twist up a classic. In the same vein, the broccoli fritti broke the SW19 mould. Whoever dreamt up chickpea batter – both in principle and in execution – is a silent hero. I hadn’t seen battered broccoli on a menu previously and so the order was mainly experimental. However, what a decision it turned out to be. Quite a mountain of broccoli was supplied. And, with each forkful, I became more addicted. The perfect crispness, coupled with a frisson of spice and seasoning. I could quite happily go back to The White Onion and eat only the broccoli side. While the lamb Wellington was upstaged by a bowl of veg, it was a course which bore plenty of merit. The portion was also satisfyingly large, without losing its visual chic.
Proceedings ended with a very attractive plate of chocolate moelleux, popcorn ice cream and popcorn pieces. Experiencing something worthy of a detailed write-up in the dessert department happens virtually never, such is the nature of the sweet courses available in most restaurants. I can only say that the conclusion was pleasant – and an opportunity to service my addiction to Sauternes (ice cold and affordable by the glass).
As to service, the maitre d’ (Beggy) was sincere and chatty – no doubt a corollary of his part-ownership in the business. Odd as it sounds, his propensity for smiling worked a charm. Sure, no-one wants to be grinned at daftly in the style of Harry Enfield’s Tory Boy. In Beggy’s case, though, his occasional beam when topping up wine simply made me feel looked after. The meal was comfortably one of my best experiences south of the Thames. Not my cheapest, but I didn’t feel robbed either.
The White Onion proves that suburban independents are capable of a future. I can see this restaurant prospering and, for a Tuesday night, the place was pretty busy. Other fringe-London and provincial restaurants would do well to emulate some of The White Onion’s virtues.
The White Onion
67 High St
by C Ley