Tucked away down a side street off Regent Street, in what is now the rather pretentiously named “Food Quarter”, the Heddon Street Kitchen is one of Gordon Ramsay’s most recent openings, which, despite receiving a flurry of bad reviews, and having apparently been sabotaged by a competitor who booked a party of 100 on the opening night and didn’t show up (or so claimed Ramsay on the Jonathan Ross show), it certainly appeared to be flavour of the month when we visited – begging the question, “who listens to reviews anyway?”
The décor of the 232 cover, two-storey HSK features marble-topped tables and smart green leather booths, exposed pipes and Anglepoise desk lamps, a homage to 20th century industrial chic, with a lounge bar screening live sports adding to the down-town New York vibe. Younger sister to the Bread Street Kitchen near St Paul’s, they are both intentionally a million miles (or a transatlantic flight away) from Ramsay’s flagship three Michelin star Royal Hospital Road establishment, with an entirely different clientèle to boot. And whilst the concept feels a bit formulaic, it’s obviously one that’s working.
The music is loud, but not so that you’ll have to shout at your date, and the staff are extremely friendly and attentive. Both the relaxed ambiance and tempting cocktail menu (suggesting both pre and post-dinner concoctions), have been designed to encourage diners to let their hair down after work, and despite the fact that we were dining on a nondescript rainy Tuesday in October, the place was packed by 7pm, with double-daters, birthday parties and men in suits catching the Rugby World Cup over a beer and a short-rib beef burger. I can’t imagine how busy it’s going to get come Christmas party season.
The Brooklyn-raised Maria Tampakis, who was appointed head chef when the restaurant opened has now been replaced by the talented North Walian Paul Croasdale, who can be seen calmly running the brigade from the open kitchen. The menu is an eclectic mix of crowd pleasers: from juicy burgers and a well hung steak to more delicate items like scallops and Cornish lobster. Open all day, HSK serves breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner and after work cocktails, with business-folk even welcome to bring along their laptops and use the flexible, club-like first floor space during the day – making me question the point of offices at all.
My baked scallops were perfectly caramelised and tender, well partnered with a subtle spiced carrot purée, intense treacle-cured bacon and refreshing celery cress and apple, with the sommelier’s suggestion of a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc being spot on. Recalling how well the Ramsay group usually cook pork belly, I was most drawn to the autumnal-sounding main of slow-roasted saddle back pork belly with caramelised apple purée, to which I added a side of creamy Savoy cabbage, and nothing could have been more heart-warming than the amber brittle crackling atop the meltingly succulent meat.
HSK being self-proclaimed child-friendly, it’s good to see that the dessert menu appeals to the young at heart, with nursery-inspired rice pudding and a make-your-own ice cream sundae and toppings list to rival that found at Corbin and King’s Colony Grill. But you most certainly have to be over eighteen to enjoy a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party dessert cocktail, a hard-shake consisting of strawberries, vanilla ice cream and lashings of Earl Grey infused gin. Surely the alcohol content would counter any possibility of brain freeze? Yes, this restaurant is fun, fun, fun for all ages – The Arb Crimbo party here we come!
Heddon Street Kitchen is at 3–9 Heddon St, London W1B 4BE. For more information and reservations visit the website.