120-122 Holland Park Avenue, London, W11 4UA
Reviewed by Michael M Sandwick
In the early '80s I worked in two Japanese restaurants in New York (they allowed child labour then) and came to love both the food and aesthetic. In ’86 I moved to Denmark during an economic downturn known as “kartoffelkuren” (the potato diet). It was a culinary backwater. Pork and potatoes! If you had told me then that Scandinavia would become foodie Mecca, I would have laughed. Who’s laughing now?
This rather long preamble leads me to last Friday’s lunch at Flat Three. The food is Japanese, Korean and Nordic inspired. I was intrigued by the thought, thrilled at the reality. Against all odds, these cultures are hugely compatible. Arduous, meticulous process, leading to simple, clean minimalism.
Chef Pavel Kanja trained in a number of Japanese restaurants. This is obvious in his food. The Nordic inspiration rather less so. The scandi-culinary revolution is by no means indigenous. It is globally informed. It excels in food preservation and fermentation, important elements of Pavel’s kitchen. It is in the restaurant’s décor however, where the Scandinavian element shines most.
Pavel is a vegan and offers both plant based and mixed tasting menus at £69, an alcoholic pairing at £49 and non-alcoholic at £33. A 3 course pre-theatre and lunch menu is £33. A la carte ranges from £9 – £39.
Our server possessed an impressive knowledge of food and wine. Flawless. First, a potato doughnut with ponzu dipping sauce. The potato didn’t quite shine through but gave a soft, gnocchi-like consistency to the savoury beignet. A non-alcoholic yuzu and lemon basil juice was brilliant. Pavel excels at these nectars. Rosehip and hawthorn was equally good. Simple, pure and very unique. I will order a flight next time.
Turbot tartare was a highlight. Scallion, sesame and dashi kept a fine balance with the sweet, delicate fish. A glass of Bartoli, Pietranera, 2014 was a treat. Pure Zibibbo (Muscat of Alexandria) grape, it was dry, packed with mineral, intense citrus, peach and a touch of bitter at the finish. This also paired very well with perfectly cooked, fresh scallops, crosnes (Japanese artichoke), sea beat and celeriac. Scallop with celeriac isn’t new. Sea beat and crosnes made it special.
Charred king cabbage was dish of the day. Seriously! Mixed with flaxseed udon noodles, gochujang (Korean chili paste) and pickled, dried cauliflower, it just sang with flavour. Chef Pavel following his heart.
Medium-rare sirloin needed more marbling. Silky potato curd and nasturtium root with pear were sheer delight. A Guardoilvento, 2014 was another fine wine. Rich tannins, vanilla, plum and a very dry finish.
Two desserts with no refined sugar were both excellent. Carrot sorbet, rhubarb, olive oil and bergamot was fun and refreshing. Sweet, sour, silk and spice. Chocolate, almond, chia and cherry bark maple was the best vegan dessert I have had. Sweetened with a hint of maple syrup, it was both light and sumptuous.
When cabbage and sugar-free dessert makes me rave, you know it’s good!