Chapter One reviewed
PUBLISHED: 08:29 29 November 2013 | UPDATED: 10:45 29 November 2013
Michelin-starred Chapter One serves exceptional, keenly priced food backed up by superb service and a slick, contemporary setting
The last time I was at Chapter One I was clad in a butcher’s apron learning how to chop up a roe buck in a masterclass led by chef patron Andrew McLeish. This time I was in a black dress and ordering venison rather than preparing it, but of course ready to step in at any time should the kitchen need my now-expert services
They didn’t, alas, and Andy his team were left to demonstrate their quite frankly astonishing prowess unaided by my efforts, and what a show it was – without the scary prices you’d imagine from such a lauded, Michelin-starred establishment.
Small wonder that locals as well as refugees from London soon filled every available, well-spaced table. Close to Bromley, it’s within easy reach of the M25 on the Kent/Surrey border, so an easy step for those who live south of the river.
A dank Friday night was immediately transformed by a glass of Champagne and nibbles served in the intimate bar before we were taken through the the restaurant.
Low-ceilinged and spacious, it’s decorated in the same shades of warm deep red as the bar, from accent walls to lamps and large framed pictures of vegetables in classic French still life form.
The impressive modern European menu focuses on fantastic seasonal ingredients and Andy’s training with Nico Ladenis at Chez Nico is evident throughout, not least in the amuse-bouches he surprised us with.
The onion consommé with oxtail bonbons and onion Lyonnaise was rich yet light, and the miniature portion of guinea fowl with the crispest buttered leeks and pan-fried potato gnocchi set our tastebuds thoroughly tingling. We even ate all the bread (“this is the best bread I’ve ever finished” declared my Double-Barrelled Friend, as his last mouthful of Parmesan-rich foccacia disappeared).
My starter of treacle-cured, vibrant salmon accompanied by sprightly charred spring onions with a zing of coriander, ginger and lemon grass was not only a visual feast (see above) but a lovely, fresh-tasting contrast to a night of quite frankly carnivore heaven.
MDBF continued on his caveman path with jugged hare, a first for him, but hey, we were living dangerously.
Served in a glass and topped with the fluffiest, creamy potato espuma sprinkled with crispy pancetta, the meat was dark, rich and silky- tender; on the side of the plate was a trio of perfectly plain hare satay, which provided a brilliant and simple contrast.
It’s time to introduce the staff – headed up by general manager Philip Urasala, who makes it all look so easy but must have eyes in the back of his head, directing his multi-cultural team with the merest nod.
Just one example: when MDBF left the table briefly, immediately his place setting was tidied up, napkin folded and chair tucked in. As if by magic.
We were particularly taken by the whole team’s friendly professionalism and knowledge of every aspect of the menu, which changes seasonally just to keep them even more on their toes.
Bulgarian sommelier Todoi rose to the challenge of recommending an appropriate wine by the glass for each of our dishes and didn’t falter once. I loved my honeyed Viognier 2012 Chilean white with my salmon and MDBF was similarly delighted with his Italian Primitivo 2012, a robust red that stood up well to the hare challenge.
I had a glass of Rioja with my main of sikka venison, the dish of the day, sourced from nearby Chart Farm, impeccably prepared and served with garlicky spinach, butternut squash and a fabulous jus – plus a side order of French beans to share.
MDBF chose the braised suckling pig and found it a quite welcome respite from the richness of the earlier courses. He was particularly happy that his “deal breaker” of crispy crackling was (of course) beautifully done, especially accompanied by a robust Argentinian Malbec.
Insisting we couldn’t possibly eat another mouthful, the combination of a really quite long rest (with no feeling ever of being rushed) and a palate-cleansing sorbet of guava and mandarin found us ordering pudding. I know, I know ...
The tart tatin (for two) was served with a flourish at the table, the puff pasty was golden perfection, the Jazz apples cooked just the right side of crispness.
We also toyed with a delectable hot Valrhona chocolate fondant with vanilla ice cream, which Todoi paired with Mas Amiel Maury 2011, one of those rare wines that work so well with chocolate desserts.
Coffee, hot and strong, petit fours, which we probably ate, it was all a bit of a blur by then, a taxi home (we’d kept our chap waiting for rather a long time – you can’t rush this standard of cooking) and I swear I haven’t eaten a thing since.
Go – often – and not just for high days and holidays (though the Christmas menus are amazing). Chapter One is in a class of it’s own. THE ESSENTIALS
Where: Chapter One, Farnborough Common, Locksbottom BR6 8NF
01689 854848 or
What: Cosmopolitan, Michelin-starred yet affordable
When: Tue-Thu 12-2:30pm, 6:30-10:30 pm, Fri and Sat 12-2:30pm, 6:30-11:30pm, Sun 12-3pm, 6:30-9pm, closed Mon
How much: three-course à la carte lunch £27 and dinner £38.50 per person (1-24 Dec); brasserie menu available Mon-Sat lunchtimes.
Christmas set menu £22.95 in the private dining room (for parties of 20 or more) or in the restaurant on certain dates (lunch £22.95, 2-24 Dec excl Sun), (dinner £27.95, 2-15 Dec, excl 7 and 14 Dec); Christmas Day £102.50 (12 noon-6pm, five courses, begins with glass of Champagne); Boxing Day £48.50 (four courses); New Year’s Eve £110 (five-courses plus DJ until 2am); New Year’s Day £38.50 (four courses, 12-5pm).
MEET THE CHEF
Andrew McLeish, chef patron Chapter One
How long you’ve been at Chapter One?
I have been at Chapter One for 13 years now, which may seem to some like
a long time but for me its flown by. I guess that’s a reflection on just how much I
love what I do
Name some of your principal local suppliers
We use a range of local Kentish suppliers including Chart Farm for our venison, Watts Farm for fruit and vegetables, Turners for our dry stores, Chapmans for our local fish. This year, we’re using Appledore Farm for our Christmas turkeys. All the suppliers have a passion for excellence and work with me closely to ensure we continue to serve our customers the best produce.
Why should readers choose Chapter One?
We serve fantastic food, the atmosphere in the restaurant is great and the service is impeccable. Why would you go anywhere else?
Any plans for 2014 you can share?
I have put a team together to open a new venue in London very soon. Steam & Rye will be a 1940’s American-inspired restaurant and bar located inside the old Bank of New York building on Leadenhall Street.
The cookery classes are going really well. I like the informal approach of the classes. I am working on a few new courses and booking more dates for next year.
Awards are great and I would like some more. So far, I’ve received awards for using local produce and of course maintaining our Michelin star and four AA rosettes is an amazing achievement. However, at the end of the day what is most important to me is that my customers are happy with what we do and want to return again and again.
What do you have for your own Christmas lunch?
I’m a traditionalist and looking forward to roasting a fantastic free-range turkey again this year. However, I do have a leg of cured ham hanging in a fridge that I’ve salted and hung six months ago. I can’t wait to try it and there may even be some spare for Chapter One, but I can’t make any promises…