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Review: Core, Notting Hill

Core, c'est elegant

Core, c’est elegant

Core is proper fine dining. The elegant room filled with soft lighting on white linen, the miracle thin glassware, the shimmying clusters of waiters bearing the next remove, it’s all there. This is not “casual fine dining” or “modern fine dining”. And that’s lovely. This is exactly the place to come if you want to feel like you are someone special, but a non-showy self-assured British kind of special.

The wine list is kinda eye-watering. Yes, if you pore over the tome long enough you can find a handful of wines around the £60 mark. But if you have to play “hunt the 2 digit wine” on a wine list then you also spoil the lovely sense of occasion by having to admit that, yes, you chose this wine not based on whether it’s a style or grape you like, or whether it particularly suits the food you’ve chosen, but because it’s one of the few cheap ones. Classy.

Potato and butter

Potato and butter

But hey, I’ve blown £500+ on a meal for two more than a handful of times, so that shouldn’t be what the review is about (though it’s worth disclosing). It’s about the food.

Nice little amuse bouches to start, though none that quite met the “oh, just give me a dozen more of these and leave me in a corner!” test of a truly great amuse. The first dish was a scallop tartare on a handsome shell, dressed with an oceanic bit of sauce. It was creamy, gentle and – for me – an unappealing slightly sticky/slippery texture without enough flavour to bring it to life.

Next, a potato. Good idea to make a small perfectly roasted charlotte potato the centre of a dish. And if you put it in a lake of insanely rich buttery seaweed sauce then it’s going to taste great. Wow. Buttery though. The fish was a tranche of skate wing topped with a crisp sliver of sweet malty bread and some bright orange curls of Morecambe Bay shrimp. But again with the pool of artery-hardening rich sauce. Maybe I’m just gettin’ too old for classic 7 course tastin’ menus, eh?

Carrot and lamb

Carrot and lamb

The carrot and lamb dish was a winner, although if the carrot was meant to be the star then I’m afraid that slow-cooking it in lamb fat and covering it with lamb kinda took all the carrot out of it. The main course, of duck, was truly delicious and well balanced. I really loved the startlingly bright citrus perfume of the Nepalese pepper ground onto it – a tiny touch but well worth doing and I found a flavour I’ve never tried before. Yay.

Dessert was a classic tasting menu concoction of shards of meringue and cream and soforth with flavours of pear and verbena. It was a good enough end, but I’ll have forgotten it in a week.

I’ve had so many superb meals this year that I was really underwhelmed by Core. Which isn’t to say that it’s not excellently executed classic French fine dining, because it is. It’s some of the other great meals I’ve had (for less dosh) that set the bar too high. It was a good meal out with friends, but I don’t think it’s going to be appearing on my “top” anything list. The tasting menu was £115 each, but unless you’re going to go tee-total or stick to the cheapies you could easily add the same for drinks.

Signature pre-dessert, pretty and tasty enough

Signature pre-dessert, looks pretty and tastes okay

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