In June 2012, Dominic Teague took up the role of executive chef at luxury London hotel, One Aldwych’s Axis restaurant. He plans his menus around the seasons (read more on that in An Interview With Chef Dominic Teague) and produces plates that are the epitome of fine dining but at an affordable price (starters priced from £7 and mains from £16). I popped into the restaurant to try out the spring menu which launched at the beginning of April.
It may be a restaurant located in a hotel basement but with high ceilings and an eye-catching wall of tall twigs, it has an exceptionally airy feel to it. Axis can seat 80 but it feels more intimate than that, perhaps because tables are so well spaced – you definitely don’t feel on top of other diners – or that the chairs are so gloriously comfortable. Service is efficient but discreet which is another plus.
Our meal begins with warm rolls – white and sodabread – served with butter and an aubergine dip. The latter is particularly pleasing, it’s a little bit like ajvar, a Macedonian relish but better, less sharp.
The menu presents a great challenge; granted it is a highly curated edit of dishes but all of them sound delectable. I don’t want to mislead, the descriptions are not overly colourful, they are exactly what they should be, informative. That’s not to say your socks won’t be knocked off when the plates arrive. The precision and beauty of each dish certainly gives that wow factor.
My dining companion for the night picked the cannelloni of Dorset crab with shellfish bisque and wood sorrel for starter (my second choice); and poached and roasted loin of Suffolk pork, broad beans, peas and morels for main. Meanwhile, I selected the roast Orkney scallops with leek and sea purslane terrine and confit of lemon for starter; and a rack of Cornish lamb, new season garlic and spring vegetables for main. We decided to share a portion of heritage carrots too.
The long and thin cannelloni were densely packed with delicious dark crab meat and the bisque was intense. Thankfully, my scallop dish was just as impressive so I escaped dreaded food envy. The scallops were juicy and sweet, the incredibly intricate leek and purslane terrine delicate and salty with the confit lemon adding a burst of sour. All of the textures and flavours danced over my tongue.
Then we got a little bit of a surprise treat. The kitchen sent out an additional dish of pan fried trout with a pea voluté, asparagus spears and crushed potatoes. The skin of the trout was so crispy and you got an occasional hit of salt crystal, while the pea volute was smooth and tasted as fresh as just-picked garden peas. It was a real hit with both of us.
At last it was onto the mains. My rack of lamb came served medium rare, the cutlets of meat gloriously juicy, and served alongside a curious pulled lamb fried ball. Then there were the spring vegetables and they were really quite something. You don’t really see many mini turnips served these days but this dish had them alongside some very tender carrots and delicious spring onions. The spring garlic was superb too. There was wild garlic as well as soft roasted garlic cloves which had the texture of chestnuts. Despite the additional surprise second course, I polished off the plate with vigour.
My dining partner was equally pleased with his main of pork. I couldn’t resist trying it. The poached loin was so soft and then there was the roasted pork which was just beautiful. It came with a selection of tiny broad beans and morels scattered (with great precision) around a large piece of slate. The heritage carrots we shared were a striking array of colours and sizes and just added to the magic of the meal. It was somewhere between allotment-side freshness meets fine dining creativity.
Throughout the meal we sipped on a bottle of Thorn-Clarke, Terra Barossa, Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 which was chosen by the sommelier. The combination of seafood, pork and lamb certainly gave him a challenge but his choice served well. It had incredible notes of cherries and plums. My dining companion referred to it as ‘jammy’.
After a bit of a break, we picked our desserts. I selected the crème brulee with shortbread and lemon and thyme, while my dining partner ordered the vanilla panna cotta and Yorkshire rhubarb.
My crème brûlée came sat on a very short and thin, crumbly shortbread base and deliciously sour slithers of lemon of lemon jelly cubes, cutting through the richness and long. It was a bit of a struggle to finish it but it was so good I was determined to clear my fourth plate of the night. The vanilla panna cotta was beautifully rich and creamy and the rhubarb tender and tart. Amusingly, it came topped with a giant ball of pink candy floss. What could be more fun than that?
Axis at One Aldwych, London WC2B 4BZ
Tel: 020 7300 0300