Neo Bistro

Restaurants, Contemporary European Mayfair
4 out of 5 stars
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Fine dining food in a rustic bistro setting.

Close enough to Oxford Street that you can hear the rustle of a thousand shopping bags is this relaxed newcomer. A place having its very own ‘Freaky Friday’ moment (the original, please God, not the Lindsay Lohan version), in that it’s essentially a fine dining restaurant trapped in the body of a bistro.

Before all this, it was a boozer called The Woodcock; the old sign still has pride of place above the door. Inside, you’ll find brown tables, brown chairs, exposed bricks and blackboards. There’s an open kitchen in the corner, some low-level chatter. So far, so standard.

What’s not standard is the food. It’s the sort of vibe you get in haute cuisine spots. You know: amuse-bouches to start, petits fours to finish. In between, smallish portions of careful creations, all of which are decent, some of which are dazzling. Like clusters of parmesan gnocchi. Cheesy and pillowy-soft, pan-frying had rendered them with little golden suntans, like they’d just come back from their summer holidays. The salty chewiness sat beautifully against crunchy cobnuts and delicately sweet kernels of corn, plus plump, juicy blueberries.

For ingenuity, though, the award goes to the tomato salad. Proof that accompaniments can also be stars, a translucent sheet of shiso jelly came draped like a homemade ghost costume over slivers of fragrant Isle of White tommies, a mix of pickled and salted. It was subtle, graceful. Special.

Other dishes were more old-school. Fat medallions of lamb saddle came smoky-edged, ruby-middled and served over a puddle of intense, moreish jus. Also on the plate: morsels of eel, charred runner beans and curls of Japanese radish drizzled in eel oil. Later, there was an elegant finger of rich chocolate mousse cake with a biscuity base (like a squishy long-lost cousin of a posh Kit-Kat), served with a a silky, subtle, malt ice cream. Double thumbs-up for both.

Sure, a couple of fish dishes were forgettable, and a parmesan root custard pud more exciting on paper than IRL, but I had to admire what they’re trying to do. It’s only a pity that the ‘no frills’ approach to the setting doesn’t extend to pricing. Individual courses are expensive: my starter was £13, that pud £9. There are, in truth, only two ways to eat here: a quick main-course-only-pitstop, or, for the full shebang, the better-value £45-a-head tasting menu. Just make sure that those gnocchi are on it.

By: Tania Ballantine

Posted:

Venue name: Neo Bistro
Contact:
Address: 11 Woodstock Street
Mayfair
London
W1C 2AE
Transport: Tube: Bond St
Price: Dinner for two with drinks and service: around £130.
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