Fine dining comes in many forms, from the magicians at the Fat Duck to the foraged-fare turned out by Noma, but classic French cuisine still has its place at the top table, and one of the very best practitioners is Philip Howard.
Every plate of food that leaves his award winning kitchen is testament to his culinary upbringing. His obsessive use of the best seasonal ingredients, simply cooked, a clear nod to his time under Simon Hopkinson. Combine this with the craft he developed during a stint with Marco Pierre-White and you have the foundations of something special - although if you’re after “nitro poached crocodile eggs” you probably need to look elsewhere.
His multi-Michelin starred flagship, The Square, sits in the midst of Mayfair and has been serving the local glitterati for more than twenty years. Like the food, everything about the restaurant - from the décor to the service - is understated but embodies quality.
In terms of the food, the crab lasagne is one of Howard’s signature starters. Consisting of silky smooth parsley pasta discs, interweaved with crab and hand dived scallop mousse, swimming in a sea of rich shellfish “cappuccino”. Some critics would argue that no dish should be allowed to remain on a menu as long as this, but they should eat at my local “gastro pub” where the menu changes daily, depending on the microwave options available. The fact is that this endures because it tastes great.
A beautifully cooked piece of turbot, drizzled with black truffle butter, provided a sophisticated and decadent main event. Whilst for dessert, the “tasting of rhubarb” left me almost speechless. The vibrant sorbets, jellies and poached fruit a million miles away from the appalling stewed rhubarb I remember from my school days.
Phil Howard’s victorious appearance on Great British Menu saw Jason Atherton, a Michelin starred chef who’s worked with Ferran Adria and Gordon Ramsey, looking visibly uncomfortable at having to judge his peer’s food. If he is that highly regarded by the cream of British cooking, you can be sure that you will eat exceptionally well at his restaurant. I did. In fact I struggle to remember ever having eaten a better meal. So if you are looking to celebrate a very special occasion, or if you’re on a particularly generous expense account, you’d be crazy not to consider this superstar of the London restaurant scene.