The 1990s may have been all about Blair, Britpop and ‘Baywatch’, but in smart restaurants the trend was to stack up their food into towering, overblown shapes: timbales of seafood, stacks of polenta and twice-baked soufflés. We also ended up with Yorkshire puddings looking like David Hasselhoff. The well-stacked phase only lasted as long as the Hoff’s singing career, but in the latest Gordon Ramsay restaurant in 2014, I’m having a flashback. The rum baba struts its way into the room, permatan-bronzed, casting a long shadow across the sandy expanse of linen.
The atmosphere of London House in Battersea is a trip back to the ’90s. This is fine dining as it used to be, with the staff spiffingly well-dressed, roses on the tables, low lighting and diners dressed in their finest. Yet, apart from the alarmingly buff rum baba, the food on chef Anna Haugh-Kelly’s menu is perfectly rendered and up-to-the-minute.
The dinner menu’s a three-course prix fixe (£35), with several choices at each course.
A starter of tuna loin is coated in a herby, chlorophyll-green gremolata crust, cut through to contrast the dark sashimi-red of the flesh; a salad of pig’s head croquette is garnished with pale curly endive leaves, soft-cooked quail eggs and carrot strips. The main courses are more prosaic: a fillet of sea bass served on slow-cooked fennel with a light bergamot sauce, or a perfectly pink beef fillet with a parsnip purée and potato gnocchi stuffed with braised beef cheek. And if you don’t fancy a butch pudding, try the posset with a cardamom and ginger oatcake – the set cream pud is flavoured with passion fruit.
We sat near the wine station as our charming Hungarian sommelier decanted. Lighting a solitary candle each time, she held the bottles in front of the gentle glow to detect sediment as she poured. This is another old-school technique but, like so much on offer here, it’s good enough to more than make up for the Hoff blasts from the past.