Canvas in Chelsea
Drawing heavy inspiration from molecular gastronomy and nouvelle cuisine, Canvas attempts to amuse, challenge and delight diners in equal measure through its unique serving style. Simply choose the courses that look interesting and they’ll be made in the appropriate portion size, creating an impromptu and accessible tasting menu that lets diners sample a little bit of everything. This versatility makes for a highly adaptable dining experience that can range from a standard three-course meal to 16 intense bursts of flavour. Whatever your choice, it can all be washed down with a selection of perfectly paired wines from the charming and knowledgeable sommelier, Alis Jusic.
With so much choice on offer, we placed ourselves in the hands of the kitchen and asked them to guide us. A first course of simple smoked salmon with wild flowers, sprigs of dill and a cauliflower puree was light, refreshing and elegant. Hardly a groundbreaking sample from the vanguard, but delicious nonetheless.
What followed was an equally gentle dish, though this one was enriched with levels of nuance and subtlety that left us craving more. A smooth pumpkin soup, scattered with a few shards of orange and topped with scallops, was simply outstanding. It managed to be simultaneously rich and indulgent without ever feeling heavy or dense, a rare phenomenon that’s reminiscent of Marcus Wareing’s special talent with truffled mixtures. The orange was a novel touch and added fleeting bursts of zingy, cleansing citrus. The scallops were cooked perfectly: butter soft beneath a seared crust.
A dish of cod and mushrooms followed. The fish was again prepared with precision, whilst the mushrooms served to create an unorthodox but thoroughly delicious take on surf ‘n’ turf. Brimming with smoke and umami, their unapologetically robust flavour provided a perfect contrast to the sweet, white fish, and worked beautifully with a slick of spiced tomato sauce. In fact, they were so delicious that they left us wondering where the rest of the vegetables were. Aside from purées, a little kale and a solitary spear of asparagus, this is pretty much the only plant we were served all evening that was more than a garnish.
One of those aforementioned purées arrived with the next course: lamb done two ways in a sticky jus with a thick, meaty porridge and a jerusalem artichoke mixture. It continued to deliver big flavours with aplomb – unctuous little cakes of meat, perfectly cooked and delightfully tender, delighting us with their unabashed richness.
We finished with a silky mixture of coconut panna cotta, ice cream and caramel, sprinkled with buttery biscuit crumbs for a much-needed contrast in texture. The panna cotta was ever so slightly savoury, a small touch but one that brought the sweeter components into line marvellously. As desserts go, it was rather mild and, after the trio of delights we had just enjoyed, it was perhaps a little underwhelming. That says more about them than it does about this solid effort though.
Attempting to judge Canvas is a difficult task. The original restaurant relocated here to deal with the demand of its clients; the intimate 20-cover venue just couldn’t keep up with the hype. Whilst the new space is airy and retains that private feel, shut off from the world in a cellar beneath the capital’s busy streets, there’s just a hint of missed opportunity here. The first venue felt like an experiment, a chance for an excellent chef to spread his wings and try something new. That playful air still lingers but it doesn’t suit the venue: this was Canvas’ opportunity to polish what they had and put out a truly spectacular offering. Instead, it’s largely more of the same.
With stints at the Fat Duck, Pierre Gagnaire and Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, chef Michael Riemenschneider is clearly a remarkably talented man. His way with flavours is showcased in some stunningly beautiful dishes, some of which are flirting with perfection. So why not let them speak for themselves, in fully realised plates rather than tantalising samples?
Ultimately, Canvas creates an unmissable tasting menu full of perfectly cooked and masterfully balanced centrepieces that’s sure to bring it a great deal of well-deserved success. We can just can’t help but wonder if it could have been more.
★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
Photos: Rosie Yang
To book a table at Canvas, 1 Wilbraham Place, London SW1X 9AE, call 020 7823 4463 or visit here.