Davies and Brook in Mayfair: Spotless fine dining at Daniel Humm’s debut London restaurant… but why isn’t my heart beating?
Daniel Humm, of the uber-celebrated Eleven Madison Park, has finally opened his debut London restaurant, Davies and Brook, at Claridge’s. The Mayfair luxury hotel has long distinguished itself for its food & beverage offerings, starting from the beginning of the century when it hosted Gordon Ramsay at the peak of his game – and fame. Then, during the Olympics, it welcomed Noma for two weeks for an extraordinary pop-up. It was no gimmick: René Redzepi and his entire team worked there for ten days. Finally, Simon Rogan opened Fera in 2014, to great acclaim, but things went downhill when he left the project three years later.
This operation is extra special because things have come full circle for Humm. Here, 27 years ago, he was a young apprentice: “It’s funny how I’m still in contact with some colleagues from back then, we were having dinner together just the other day,” and memories surfaced, he tells us. Openings are never easy, but this one has endured the breakup of the chef and his long-standing partner, Will Guidara, the man known for making the service of EMP an exemplar of bespoke, fun experiences.
Davies and Brook wants to be a legitimate sister to the New York restaurant, not a third-degree relative. The same architect – Brad Cloepfil – took care of conveying a similar vibe, with a setting that echoes the grandeur of a bygone era. Yet, it stays sober. The colour palettes play down the opulence, in line with the cleanliness of the dishes. And now, onto the food.
With bread and butter comes a surprise: raw scallop with apple slices accompanied by a scallop consommé, and also special butter covered by a reduction of the latter. Everything is quite delicious on its own, although the intensity of the clear broth and the freshness of the scallops did not come together.
We continue with Poached Lobster with winter squash, which beautifully represents what they are doing here. Aesthetically, everything is on point and impressively consistent. The same goes for the clarity of the flavours. The lobster is tender and tasteful, yet, it could be even more so. Similarly, the King Crab Chawanmushi, with finely sliced black truffle and daikon, would be exquisite if it didn’t exceed in umami.
The chef delights us with a taste of the restaurant’s more luxurious course, which can only be ordered by the whole table. It’s a butternut squash, cut and carved, containing cooked squash and a ridiculous amount of ossetra caviar. Again, the presentation is splendid, but do the two elements (and temperatures) actually complement each other?
A Dry-Aged Duck is spectacular, in itself a very good reason to come back. The honey and lavender glaze – with the perfect amount of spices – adds not only taste but also a crunchy element to the heavenly, tender meat. It’s a generous portion, cooked just as you want it, and quite stunning even just to look at. Humm more often than not covers his food with elegantly-prepared ingredients that enhance the taste of the dish, and he does it with kohlrabi on a luscious black cod.
While we wait for dessert, a guest sitting next to us enjoys a celeriac cooked inside a pig’s bladder: this technique can be considered an ancestor to the sous vide, but it’s always exciting to watch.
I’ve learnt not to take for granted that a chocolate pudding will taste of chocolate – bizarre, but it is what it is – and I’m more than happy with this delightful light tart, which comes with a scoop of coconut ice cream. For something fresher and more creative, Mandarin Salad certainly makes for a good dessert.
Food-wise, Davies and Brook does exactly what it says on the tin. Humm’s elegant, precise cuisine feels timeless, classic and contemporary at the same time. Given Eleven Madison Park’s fame for their bespoke guest experience, the traditional service – despite being seamless – falls short of expectations. One thing is certain: there’s no place like this in London. But why isn’t my heart beating?★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
Filippo L’Astorina, the Editor
Photos: Filippo L’Astorina
To book a table at Davies and Brook, Brook Street London W1K 4HR, call 020 7107 8848 or visit here.