Once a month, once a year, or once in a ‘sorry I massively f*cked up’, you may find yourself trying to figure out where to spend a wad of cash on a posh dinner. With no shortage of expensive options in this city, how do you choose? Consider your priorities. Maybe you want to eat somewhere that’s been around for decades, or which has been awarded a certain number of stars by a tire company. Maybe you want to eat somewhere where you’ll see a B-list celebrity. Maybe you’re into foams and molecular gastronomy techniques, and you’d be excited about eating a thumbnail of unpronounceable food that arrives on a bed of edible leather.
Or maybe you just want to have an excellent proper meal, in an extremely pleasant setting. That’d be our personal preference, which is why we’re such big fans of Core by Clare Smyth. This is fine dining for people who actually like to eat.
Core is the first restaurant from Clare Smyth, a former chef patron of a Gordon Ramsey restaurant, whose CV includes a bunch of very famous restaurants all over the world. It’s set in a converted townhouse in Notting Hill, and when you walk in, you’ll feel like you’ve just entered the living room of a quietly well-off friend who so happens to have excellent taste in interior design. But unlike showing up at said posh friend’s house, don’t expect any of the other guests to give you the look up and down. Here, everyone’s way too focused on their food to give a toss about who’s just walked in.
The food will essentially be a tour of familiar British produce, tweaked in interesting ways and combined with the occasional unusual ingredient. Take, for example, what they do with a simple potato here. A simple (but excellent) potato gets covered in herring and trout roe, then topped with a dulse (seaweed) buerre blanc. After eating it, you'll wish all potatoes came with herring and caviar and seaweed sauce.
Beyond that, there are things like a perfectly crispy duck wing, a big scallop, and a carrot topped with braised lamb and more carrot that’s hard to explain but extremely enjoyable to eat. All of it is perfectly executed, exciting, and extremely tasty.
The main-event seven-course tasting menu comes in at £105, and you can can also do a five-course for £85, or a three course prix fixe for £75. Even if there isn’t a birthday, anniversary, or you’ve never wronged anyone in your life, you should go and have dinner here anyway. For people who want their food to taste fantastic above all else, it’s an excellent experience.
The menu at Core is seasonal but here’s an example of what to expect
This is part of an array of starters that lands on your table at the beginning of the meal. You get a small square cube of small crispy duck on a stick. It’s a rich and tasty piece of meat, and you'll probably want another.
This is scallop is big and meaty - as they should be. You’ll love this and the butter sauce that comes with it. It also looks like some kind of aquatic garden.
Never thought we would wax lyrical about a potato - but this is special. This is a great hunk of potato topped with herring and trout roe. And we need an IV drip of that beurre blanc sauce, please.
While it may have lamb in the title, there’s more carrot than lamb on this dish. A long thin carrot is topped with small pieces of incredibly rich braised lamb, then topped again with slices of carrot. It also comes with a small brioche bun stuffed with the lamb meat.
When this piece of venison arrives, you might think that you’re being shortchanged, because it’s a small piece of meat. But again, it’s so rich that you won’t need much more than what is served. It's a perfect portion, and is really excellent.
This is a twist on the cherry bakewell that you get down the supermarket. It’s definitely not baked, but it is topped off with breadcrumbs, so we guess that’s the ‘baked’ part of the dish.
Good god this is an excellent way to finish off a meal.