Better known as a Mecca for London musicians than for its culinary merits, Denmark Street hosts unpretentious Bowie-hangout-café-cum-dining-room La Giaconda. Having recently re-opened in November 2013, the restaurant serves “French-ish” food with a family kitchen atmosphere from its relaxed, family style dining room.
An honest, traditional cooking style resonates through the menu, with a short and uncomplicated selection of dishes which changes almost daily. It’s obvious that the La Giaconda team aren’t afraid to challenge current perceptions – this isn’t a place to bring your vegetarian friends as there are no veggie mains. Instead, it’s a carnivore’s heaven, with steak tartare, veal and offal featuring heavily – the Braised Tripe with Chorizo, Butter Beans and Paprika, for instance, is a dish few chefs would dare put on their menus.
Served with unapologetically thick slices of bread and rustic homemade butter, the chicken liver pâté entrée is rich, yet has a mousse like fluffiness and is contrasted perfectly with a Sticky Fig and Prune Compote. A delicately balanced Crab Salad with Celeriac is a prime example of fresh shellfish done well. But the biggest surprise of the entrées was the Crisped Pigs’ Trotters with Hard Boiled Eggs, which were presented in a modern lasagne style arrangement with a tangy leek vinaigrette cutting through the complex layers of a dish that could so easily have been a greasy mess.
Served in yet more generous portions, the main courses included imaginative dishes such as Rib of Beef with Oxtail and Shallots, as well as Veal Sirloin with Pumpkin Gnocchi alla Romana. Our first choice, the grilled duck breast, was served with a delicious bread sauce and capers – although the duck was slightly overcooked for my companion’s liking – the accompaniment of Black Pudding, Brussels Sprouts and Baby Potatoes was a perfect partnership which was a worthy dish in its own right.
Meanwhile, a meaty fillet of well-cooked sea bass was complemented by a bed of lentils, a glossy sorrel sauce and fluffy baby potatoes. With a hint of mustard, the herb sauce cleverly connected the dots between three otherwise everyday ingredients, whilst adding a touch of inspiration from the French countryside.
Thankfully, the menu ended as strongly as it started, with a clever and refreshing Iced Nougat, albeit served with some slightly overwhelming stewed prunes. The star of the show, however, was undoubtedly a beautifully arranged Eton Mess full of flavoursome puréed strawberries and delicate meringues that evoked feelings of schoolboy nostalgia.
La Giaconda might lose cool points from some critics, but owners Paul and Tracey Merrony (who are also involved in Berwick Street caffeine addict hangout Flat White) make little attempt to fit in with their noisy Soho neighbours. With an intimate family vibe, they prefer to let the food do the talking.
Photos: Erol Birsen
La Giaconda: 45/60
To book a table at La Giaconda, 9 Denmark Street, WC2 8HLS please call 0207 240 3334 or for further information visit here.