Fifty Cheyne is an unashamedly crowd-pleasing and sociable restaurant of the sort that we need more of. Rosie Paterson paid a visit — and also came away with a recipe for one of the signature dishes, the delicious hake with with peas, broad beans and a pink peppercorn sauce that you'll see above.
The rejuvenated No. Fifty Cheyne restaurant has quite a pedigree. The place is owned by Sally Greene, founding director of the Old Vic Theatre Company and proprietor of Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club. There’s a heavyweight name in the kitchen too: the head chef Iain Smith, previously the man who ran the kitchen at Jason Atherton’s Social Eating House, one of my favourite London restaurants. Let’s just say that expectations were high.
It all started well: entering is like walking into a picture-perfect townhouse. The downstairs dining room is all elegant sash windows and high ceilings, crystal-drop chandeliers and squashy leather chairs with rounded, stripy fabric backs. The colour palette is calming — peaches, russet reds and splashes of green. The latter, most notably, on the open grill with giant leather and metal studded extractor hood.
Upstairs you’ll find a drawing room — where afternoon tea is served every day — straight out of the interior pages of Country Life. Full-height bookshelves, an open fire with leather club fender and upholstered ottomans. Our visit this time was for lunch, and if you are too I’d suggest starting with a Garden of Eden or Pavilion Sour cocktail, both of which were expertly mixed and unashamedly feminine without being too sweet.
Food is simple and seasonal. Favourites included the carpaccio starter, with generous shavings of cheese, and chips cooked in aged beef fat — great hunks of piping hot, crispy skinned potato. They are absolutely not to be missed, so forget whatever diet you are on. Puddings err on the side of traditional, in a good way: sticky toffee pudding made even more indulgent by a serving of clotted-cream ice cream on the side and a crumble that will help banish thoughts of the ones served in school canteens.
That’s the mark of the place: a neighbourhood restaurant that knows its clientele. Everything is designed to be a pleasure rather than a challenge — the a la carte menu features favourites such as a chateaubriand and a fish of the day for two, while on Sundays there are large sharing joints from the grill. Wine is served by the glass, bottle or — my preferred option, especially at lunch — carafe.
The emphasis here is on sharing, big meals and coming together. It’s charming and perfectly-judged, both suiting the restaurant’s genial setting and filling a gap in the market. There’s little like it on the King’s Road and Chelsea area. Long may it last.
No. Fifty Cheyne, 50 Cheyne Walk, London SW3 5LR. From £75, based on two people dining, excluding service — fiftycheyne.com.
Recipe: How to make Fifty Cheyne’s pan-fried fillet of hake with peas and broad beans, with a white wine, chive and pink peppercorn sauce
For the fish & flowers
- 130g of Hake fillet per person
- 1 teacup of wild yellow mustard flowers
For the white wine sauce
- 1 Onion
- 1 Clove of garlic
- 1 Sprig of thyme
- 1 small bunch of chives
- 250ml White wine
- 250ml Chicken stock
- 250ml Double cream
For the pink peppercorns
- 25g Pink peppercorns
- 50g Sugar
- 50g White wine vinegar
- 50ml Water
For the ‘greens’
- 200g Broad beans
- 200g Fresh peas
- 1 Leek
- To make the white wine & pink peppercorn sauce, start by sweating down the diced onion with the chopped garlic and a sprig of thyme, in a little oil. When soft add the white wine and reduce by half. Next add the chicken stock and reduce by half again.
Finish by adding the double cream and reduce till the sauce starts to thicken. Finally blend all together in a blender and pour the sauce through a fine sieve in to any small receptacle. Set it aside till needed.
- Next, place the pink peppercorns in a metal sieve. Bring the water, sugar and vinegar to the boil in a small pan, then slowly pour boiling liquid over the pink peppercorns and allow to cool and then remove any excess liquid with kitchen towel.
- Prepare the greens by shelling the broad beans and peas in to a bowl. Next peel away the outer leaves of the leek to reveal the leek heart, slice the heart into small round ‘checker’. Blanch the ‘checkers’ in salty water and set them aside.
- Finally, to cook the hake fillet, heat a little olive oil in a non-stick frying pan. Season the hake with a pinch of salt and place the into the hot pan skin side down and cook for a few minutes until the flesh becomes opaque. Remove the pan from the heat, turn the fillet over and let the residual warmth cook the fish through perfectly.
- To put it all together, heat the white wine sauce in a small pan and add in the peas, broad beans, leek hearts and chopped chives and pour half onto the plate. Place the Hake fillet on top, skin side up showing off the golden skin, and carefully pour the remaining sauce around it. Finish with pink peppercorns and wild yellow mustard flowers. Serve.
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