Kitchenette, located on Putney Bridge Road, sounds intriguing enough; the latest outpost of a chain based mainly in Turkey and Russia, its website boasts of a menu inspired by Mediterranean dishes but also “international favourites”. Burgers and falafels, tiramisus and brownies represent some of the dinner menus scope. Don’t forget the breakfasts either, which travel through full English breakfasts to the Turkish scrambled egg dish menemen with a quick detour to America for waffles. The question is, can a menu so committed to exploring the cuisine of Europe (and beyond) deliver consistently pleasing food?
Things start positively enough. Staff bristle with enthusiasm and do a good job of welcoming you into the spacious and energetically white restaurant, which, when quiet, can feel a little cavernous. They recommend cocktails with success – a grape mojito and an Emerald, a kiwi and vodka based drink, are well balanced – and comfortably discuss the evolving and ambitiously eclectic menu.
Things kick off in France: ham croquettes have all the requisite components of this classic dish – coquettishly oozing cheese, salty ham and crisp exterior – and are plentiful, but they’re let down by an enthusiastically seasoned mixed leaf salad. Though the well-reduced, fruity tomato sauce is robust enough to provide light relief from the brackish garnish, overall this feels like a missed opportunity of a dish, a chance to replicate the best of casual French food squandered.
The kitchen quickly redeems itself with lamb shank cooked in cardamom jus. Lamb shank can be an infuriating presence on restaurant menus, so often tough, stubbornly resistant and drowned in anaemic, flavourless brown slurry – not here. This one’s flesh yields helplessly – a plastic canteen spoon could do serious damage to meat this tender – and with it, the memories of disappointing shanks past fade away. The liquor has more than a rumour of fragrant spices: cardamom is there, sure, and so too are juniper berries and black pepper. They bristle and enhance, augmenting an awesome effect of something that’s familiar yet new. Underneath the now sparkling bone lies the remnants of a smoked aubergine begendi that has the silken, viscous texture of a perfectly made, thick savoury custard. It is infinitely moreish and emphatically Turkish.
Things slump again slightly with mashed potatoes that harbour lumps – not the kind you nostalgically adored in your Nan’s mash – but the unwelcome sort, a technical glitch that is at odds with the proficiency shown elsewhere.
Cardamom makes a muted reappearance inside a chocolate mousse. Like a tentative plus one at a party, it sits, quietly stewing over whether it should really be there. The mousse is light and rich enough on its own to be a success, while the cardamom eventually shuffles away to where it belongs – back to the murky, glorious depths of the main course.
A menu this distracted by different cuisines is bound to have highs and lows, but if you’re looking for somewhere with reasonably priced, largely successful dishes served by a great front of house then you could do much worse. Kitchenette’s charm is enough to suggest it will be a sustained success.
Photos: Jack Downes
To book a table at Kitchenette, 200-204 Putney Bridge Road, SW15 2NA, call 020 3011 1123 or for further information visit here.