Flat Three in Kensington
Japanese. Wood ants. Cashew butter. Nordic. Sand carrot. Porcini and dandelion coffee. Alexanders. Upon reading back some of my notes from a recent meal at Flat Three, my musings seem even to me to be more stream of consciousness ramblings than coherent thoughts on a menu. And yet somehow, in a roundabout way, regardless of how it reads, the whole thing just sort of worked. Mostly.
The brainchild of operations manager Juliana Moustakas and chef Pavel Kanja, Flat three began life as a series of dinners in the former’s home to trial the disarmingly simple dishes. Here in its Holland Park building there are three options available: a la carte sharing plates, a normal tasting menu and a plant-based tasting menu.
For the majority of what’s on offer the plant-based plates match the regular ones hit for hit, packing an impressive punch into vegetable dishes like Fermented Cabbage Wrapped in Chard with Celeriac and Onion Broth and linseed noodles, king cabbage and gochujang with a fermented chilli paste and bay leaf oil.
The only slight disappointment is a sand carrot dish (smoked sand carrot, miso and Cornish seaweed), which made three mistakes: its first was being the only dish I had all night that looked like it might have come from a more traditional classical restaurant, putting it rather at odds with the rest of the menu; second, the vast majority of carrots have a notorious reputation for not tasting of very much; and finally, the regular menu at this point served a fillet of sea bass delicately poached in a fermented cauliflower broth infused with a little ginger and garlic and served with ramson leaves, which was so good as to make me not pay much attention to the carrots.
Careful thought has clearly gone into the menu with intelligent decisions taking what might be standard fine-dining dishes and taking them in a new direction. Scallops with sea purslane is not an uncommon option in restaurants nowadays, but the sea purslane appears almost always as a few leaves for garnish. Here, it is served in a large enough quantity so as to provide a vegetable element to the course, giving an equal weighting to the scallop and the vegetables and balancing the dish beautifully.
The meat course demonstrates more pleasingly confident cooking. A piece of perfectly charred sirloin, wasabi and chilli, the dish needs nothing more.
The desserts are perhaps a little reliant on ice creams and sorbets, which are all undeniably excellent, but even with the interesting flavours they seem somewhat at odds with the more adventurous savoury courses – and ice creams can only provide so much textural interest. The addition of wood ants to an unexpectedly flavoursome tofu sorbet with pomegranate is the only real flourish here; the ants add a pleasing fruity crunch at the end of each mouthful. A porcini and dandelion coffee ice cream is beautifully smooth but the sponge that accompanies it is about as good as a chocolate sponge is likely to be. Good but not tremendously exciting.
Flat Three delivers a slick operation and innovative food that really tries to be different. The service is friendly and informative without feeling overbearing. And whilst the regular tasting menu edges it overall, my recommendation would be to go with a friend and order both tasting menus so you can try a bit of everything.
★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
Photos: Mike Garnell
To book at table at Flat Three, 120-122 Holland Park Avenue London W11 4UA, call 020 7792 8987 or visit here.