There’s a scene in the BBC adaptation of Dickens’s ‘Little Dorrit’, where, having fallen on hard times, Edmund Sparkler suggests to his social-climbing wife Fanny that they might move to a ‘less expensive part of town’, such as… ‘Fulham’. ‘Fulham!’ she shrieks, plainly outraged. But this one-time poor cousin of Chelsea is, in culinary terms at least, on the up.
First came the Harwood Arms – the first and only London pub to hold a Michelin star – and now there's the Malt House. Like its award-winning near neighbour, it also has a high-profile founder (Claude Bosi, of the even starrier Hibiscus), and is now owned by chef Paul Merrett and restauranteur Greg Bellamy within the pair's Jolly Fine Pub group. It's a spruced-up, handsome old venue and serves British-style cooking of the highest standard.
There were own-made pork scratchings: rich, dense, and with the faintest hint of malt vinegar. Then a hotpot of mutton and apricot, served in a Lilliputian cast-iron casserole, with a fan of wafer-thin potatoes revealing a mellow, full-flavoured stew so yielding, so tender, that your granny could have left her dentures on the bedside table and still enjoyed it. Triple-cooked chips were no less memorable: crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, just as a designer chip should be. Finally, pitched perfectly at the ladies who lunch, a light-as-air malted 'ice cream’ fashioned from soya milk, sprinkled with crumbled biscuit and given a moreish slick of buttery salted caramel: it had just a frisson of naughtiness.
The cooking is the most creative and innovative aspect of this operation. Wines (a dozen of which are available by the glass or carafe) hail largely from France, with only a sprinkling from the New World.
Interiors leap straight from the pages of ‘Period Living’ (all tongue and groove, soft wood tones and Farrow & Ball paint), while staff are polite and attentive. SW6 is strictly upper-crust now: Fanny would be quite satisfied.