Dinner at The Avenue

Refurbished and revamped by D&D Group earlier this year, The Avenue restaurant in St James’ is now headed by chef Mikko Kataja, who has placed a strongly British and seasonal emphasis on the menu.

I can imagine it’s usually full up with suits at lunch time, but on the Friday evening we were there, it was mainly couples enjoying a quiet dinner.

As well as being very British, the menu changes according to the seasons, with chilled cucumber soup, pea risotto and English strawberry salad all featuring at this time of year. The food presentation is innovative – my starter of Scottish scallops with samphire and sauce vierge was served on a long wooden tray, with the scallops on the half shell resting on a bank of broken up and sea-washed shells, reminiscent of a shingle beach. The scallops themselves were cooked exquisitely, the soft yield of the flesh contrasting perfectly with the salty crunch of the samphire, and the sharp piquancy of the sauce. My companion predictably ordered the potted foie gras with walnut and date toast – an effortlessly delectable combination.

My main, simply described as ‘roast cod, octopus and English chorizo’, was much more complex than its humble description suggested. While all three separate components appeared on the plate, there was also a ‘sausage’ made from blending the chorizo and the octopus and poaching the puree – both surprising and delicious. What was almost more impressive was the detail in which our fantastic waiter was able to describe this process to me – I swear he could go into the kitchen and cook it himself. Sirloin of beef, anchovy butter, wild rocket and bone marrow was more simply presented, although with no less care, and made for an outrageously tasty (if outrageously filling) main course. Although best avoided for those with high blood pressure, I think…

My rose set cream, strawberry salad and sorbet was a very refreshing conclusion to the meal – the cream was not overpoweringly floral, and its richness very well set off by the strawberries. The British cheese plate was varied and well thought out, although I could barely eat more than a mouthful!

Our overall impression of the restaurant was of a very competent chef, working with excellent produce and putting his own signature onto each of the dishes. The staff were absolutely faultless throughout – I think we could almost have invited our waiter to sit with us he was such good fun! The only pity was that it wasn’t busier, something I was surprised by on a Friday evening in the west end, although the front of the restaurant belies its cavernous size, and I think this may be why it is overlooked by the evening dining crowd. I would thoroughly recommend it though, perhaps as a site for a boozy lunch if you’re shopping around neighbouring Mayfair.

The Avenue, 7-9 St James’ St, SW1A 1EE

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