As surely as the fans gather to holler and groan on Murray Mount, Wimbledon is about to headline the sports news for another fortnight. This leafy suburb gets an annual fillip of well-heeled visitors in the wake of The Championships. Yet Wimbledon Village, which is where the taxis ferry the smart set, struggles to cope with the summer influx. The High Street barely has enough cafés and pubs for the extra custom, let alone fine-dining venues catering for big spenders.
The White Onion is SW19’s newest destination restaurant. With an excellent match record at the French Table in Surbiton, Eric and Sarah Guignard have opened this branch with a steady hand. From the courteous service to the recitation of the day’s vegetarian dishes, you can tell The White Onion’s no arriviste. You’re dealing with pros, ready for a culinary Grand Slam.
The cooking here can be elaborate and showy, in a way you can find in affluent French towns. A starter of French white asparagus is served with a butter sauce flavoured with orange and cardamom. As if those flavours aren’t frou-frou enough, there’s also a mimosa-style garnish; that is, egg yolk and white separated and finely chopped, for visual impact.
The simpler dishes were the most satisfying. Herdwick lamb was full-flavoured, yet the meat tender and red; it takes both great produce and skill in the kitchen to produce such a flawless dish. A French accent was added to the British meat with little dabs of garlic emulsion, smoked aubergine purée and a jus flavoured with a hint of lavender. Cannelloni of Dorset crab was even more impressive, garnished with seafood foam. But it wasn’t all show, as the crab was sea-fresh and the pasta delicately thin.
The dessert list includes a pavé (literally, ‘cobblestone’) of hazelnut mousse – but with a crisp embedded in it like the edge of a tennis racket, which made us think of the era when John McEnroe’s temper tantrums had the umpires ducking for cover.
‘Is it a special occasion?’ the receptionist enquired when I made the dinner booking. But the whole of Wimbledon fortnight is a special occasion for The White Onion, as the opening hours are extended to lunch and dinner every day except Sundays. Game, set, and match: this restaurant is is already Wimbledon’s champion of 2015.