I’d been looking forward to visiting Wild Honey for quite a while. In fact, it was the first restaurant I booked as part of this year’s culinary tour of London. I want to say it was terrific. The problem is that for a Michelin star restaurant experience, it was just okay.
In 2007 I had a fantastic meal at Arbutus, which is Wild Honey’s sister restaurant in Soho, also owned and run by Anthony Demetre and Will Smith (no, not that Will Smith). Since then, I’ve heartily recommended the place to anyone who’d listen. Wild Honey offers a similar approach to dining as it’s sibling. Indeed, a handful of dishes are to be found on both restaurant’s menus. Both establishments specialise in bistro food – lots of slow-cooking, cheaper cuts of meat, informal service, pour your own wine, no tablecloths. You get the idea.
While the food was mostly excellent, I feel the service here could do with some attention. I’m not a fan of stuffy or formal service but I felt the service was not quite as professional as it should have been. We waited some considerable time for a waiter to bring us a menu or wine list. The waiter who eventually took my drinks order did not have a great command of English; he brought the wrong drinks, then it took me a full two minutes to explain the order to the waiter again. A little frustrating.
The Wife’s gripe with Wild Honey is the proximity of the tables; we were practically sharing a table with the people next to us. That’s fine if you’re eating at Wagamama, but at this price level, I’m not willing to eat “canteen-style“.
I started off with a “Warm smoked eel, beetroot tart, horseradish” which for me was the best dish of the meal. The warm eel was moist and very well flavoured, with the crisp and sweet beetroot tart a great accompaniment. The pungent horseradish cream and lightly-spiced cauliflower provided another set of textures and flavours but didn’t dominate either the eel or the beetroot tart. I thought this dish was a fantastic starter – well-balanced flavours and striking presentation. I tasted The Wife’s “Ravioli of English veal with butternut squash“, which we agreed was pretty tasty and well cooked.
For mains, I had the plat du jour “Roast organic pork with new season morels“. I do feel the waiting staff need to be a bit more knowledgeable about the menu. I had asked the waiter which cut of pork the dish contained but he didn’t know. “Loin?“, I suggested helpfully. He asked a nearby colleague who confirmed it was indeed loin. The dish turned out to be not only loin but a piece of belly also. The pork was perfectly cooked. The loin portion was juicy and ever so slightly rare. The belly cut was meltingly tender and strongly flavoured. The dish was accompanied by some well-flavoured polenta and the chef was not skimping with the morels either. A very good dish.
The Wife’s “Line caught cod, cockles, chorizo, chickpeas and parsley” was pretty good; huge flakes of moist cod with the chorizo lending a piquant note to the chickpeas. She seemed happy enough with it. Our desserts, a “Classic custard tart” and “Vanilla cheesecake with Gariguette strawberries” were both decent but nothing to write home about.
I like the ethos behind Wild Honey’s food but we didn’t feel pampered or even well looked after here. The owners appear to be applying the same “rustic” approach to the service as they apply to the food. For the money (about £130), I think we could have done a little better on a Sunday evening in London. Maybe Jason Atherton’s crew spoiled us too much the day before.
Verdict: 6/10Wild Honey 12 St. George Street, London W1s 2FB http://www.wildhoneyrestaurant.co.uk/