Iska Lupton is seduced by John Burton Race’s New Angel, whose appearance marks his return to London after a 12-year hiatus
On a quintessential Notting Hill street lined with white villas and populated with elegant people, sits the smart yet understated The New Angel. Given that it opened just four weeks ago, this is a self-assured restaurant that oozes professionalism and poise, from the moment you step into its sultry, low lit interior.
At the helm is the Michelin-bothering television ‘personality’, John Burton Race, who is back in London after a 12-year hiatus. At his side is his talented and loyal second-in-command, Stephen Humphires, of Santum on the Green and Le Gavroche pedigree. Together this pair is making a concerted bid to bring intricate, modern and seasonal European fare to west London. And we aren’t half excited about it.
A slice of warm bread (selected from a quartet of options) and an amuse bouche of pea veloute with salmon tartare and a coconut foam sets the tone for what promises to be a sensory treat. The waiter, a delightful Scot called Steven, rattles off the menu with skill and genuine glee, becoming almost emotional about the New Angel tartare. His knowledge and enthusiasm make us only too happy to submit to his recommendations. Roasted hand dived scallops, curried cauliflower, pickled vegetables and onion bahji are sweet, and perfect with a glass of Fiano. Scallops are divine, bahji (teeny onion rings) are crisp and a julienne of Granny Smith apple gives a vital sweet/sour lift. Next, the much-eulogised New Angel steak tartar comes bound by a jersey rock oyster, with horseradish sorbet and truffle mayonnaise. Steven’s emotion is entirely justifed.
The fillet of Devonshire lamb is rolled in fresh herbs and gently poached in olive oil, and comes with sweetbreads, fricassee of peas, pancetta and watercress gnocchi, tomato and thyme jus. It is stunning; the poached medallions of lamb glisten pink, and are soft and tender. The roasted squab pigeon with foie gras, girolle mushroom tart, savoy cabbage, Madeira and truffle jus is a textural sensation, each flavour complementing the next.
The pudding menu too is mightily seductive, from the Gariguette Strawberries and lemon mille-feuille to the iced mango parfait with salt caramel popcorn. However when the cheese trolley glides past, it becomes crystal clear what the remainder of our evening holds. Suddenly, Steven morphs from engaging, attentive waiter to top-class cheese connoisseur; each slice comes accompanied by a tale, a fact or a nugget of history. We are willing recipients of his advice once more, and end up with eight fine triangles, from a to a creamy Comte to a sensational Morbier, complete with legendary ash vein down the centre, to a salty blue. Sipping on a fine glass of port, enveloped in a fabulous cheesy haven, we find the conversation steering towards the when – rather than the if – of our return this new Notting Hill angel.