The Truscott Arms in Maida Vale
Set in the heart of white-stucco neighbourhood Maida Vale, The Truscott Arms is a modern English gastropub elevated to elegance.
There are 50 seats in the luminous dining room upstairs and Australian chef Barry Snook’s kitchen overlooks the tables. Snook, who began his UK career at Michellin-starred Chez Bruce, is committed to respecting the natural ingredients in all of his dishes; The Truscott Arms is part of the Sustainable Restaurants Association.
The dinner menu is set, with a choice of four starters and five mains at a reasonable price (£27 for two, £32 for three).
Red Mullet with Soft Polenta, Smoked Muscatels & Basil Velouté and Scallops with Chicken Wings, Pearl Barley t& Spinach seem to be the most interesting opening courses. The velouté tastes great and it’s delicate, however both the mullet and the chard it lies on are rather tough. It’s good to make a fish’s skin crispy, but that only works if the rest of it is tender. Unexpectedly there’s bacon too, which doesn’t help. The scallops the same problem: they are small and overcooked; the dryness of the chicken wings make the dish even heavier but the wilted spinach balances it to some extent.
The wine comes well after dishes are on the table, which is not ideal – sometimes it’s better to risk eating something slightly colder than missing out on the wine pairing. The War Horse Chenin Blanc Stellenbosch 2013 by Simonsig is a revelation, just as fruity as you want it to be; it’s a white wine that has found the right balance. The Schönburger Siegerrebe 2012 by English producer Three Choirs is the opposite: way too fruity and lacking any definition – my advice is to avoid it.
It’s hard to resist a dish of pork when the description sounds so luscious: the Suckling Pig with Iberico Loin, Grapefruit Puree & Braised Chicory is good and properly cooked, with juicy chicory, graceful beetroot slices and delicious tiny baby carrots.
The other course on the table is John Dory with Razor Clams, Haricot Beans & Sauce Vierge; this makes me realise that The Truscott Arms is not a place where you should have fish. The problem is identical to the red mullet and the scallops: it’s overcooked, pan-fried till it becomes tough and dry. The idea to serve a fresh and natural salad inside the open razor clam is smart and interesting – the same can’t be said of the one on the plate, which is the same but warmed up with beans.
Both desserts we try are worth ordering: the Milk Chocolate & Espresso Pave with Cherry Ice Cream & Almond Praline with its three layers (chocolate biscuit, chocolate and coffee sponge and a chocolate gel top) and the Hot Chocolate Pudding with Praline Parfait & Almonds with its warm intense chocolatey flavour.
It may happen that a dish is cooked under par, but it shouldn’t leave the kitchen in this state, and the three fish courses reveal an underlying issue that a serious restaurant needs to address. The chef cares for sourcing ingredients and most of the combinations are interesting, prefiguring a bright future for his career – though his trajectory might need some slight adjustments.
The Truscott Arms’ dining room is one of the most interesting restaurants you can find in Maida Vale, a perfect place for a Sunday lunch; even though it has set the bar a bit too high, it’s still a fine choice, especially when it comes to meat.
★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
Filippo L’Astorina, the Editor
Photos: Laura Denti
To book a table at The Truscott Arms, 55 Shirland Rd, London W9 2JD, call 020 7266 9198 or enquire here.