Lee Westcott at Carousel: “This pop-up is proof that the chef is one of the most talented in the UK”
After working for four years at the Typing Room in Bethnal Green’s Town Hall Hotel, Lee Westcott opened Pensons on the Herefordshire-Worcestershire border and managed to earn the restaurant a Michelin star in just seven months. Following this impressive achievement, the chef has returned to London, where he is planning an exciting new project. He kicks things back off by partnering with The Botanist for a week-long pop-up at Carousel – a creative space that hosts a new chef every week.
The venue itself is lovely and light, with the large wooden dining tables adding to the intimate supper club feeling. Friendly staff float about and it’s not long before a Botanist–based mini tipple is placed before me: gin with raspberry cordial, smooth, almost honey-like (but not too sweet). It’s a delicious shot that sets the tone for the evening.
While we wait for things to get started, I order a Stinging Gimlet, The Botanist’s take on a classic, made with gin, nettle, basil and lemon. It’s sharp and strong but well balanced. After a short introduction from the man behind the menu, it’s time for the main event.
The food can be paired with an optional cocktail selection, which is strongly recommended as tangible thought has gone into the couplings. The first two courses, Crispy Beef, Roasted Cep, Black Garlic and Herbal Salad Tartlet and IPA Sourdough, Marmite Butter, Roasted Yeast are rich, salty and umami, so naturally are matched with a Seaweed Martini. The three parts marry together in delicious tangy harmony. The marmite butter is a real highlight of the evening, with the generous amount nearly equalling the slice of sourdough – no complaints here.
The following courses offer a fresh antidote to the prior bold flavours. The accompanying drink, a Sorrel Collins, is the best of the night: quenching, light and made with a home-made acidifier to replace the lemon, it aims to highlight the tastes of the sea.
The Isle of Wight Tomatoes, Cornish Mussels, Seaweed, Camomile is exceptional, moreish to the point that we eagerly spoon up the rest of the remaining juices – a hunk of that sourdough wouldn’t have been amiss here.
The Orkney Scallop, Cucumber, Turnip, Japanese Dressing is very fresh, and perhaps misses some of the daring flavours in the other dishes, but the vaguely named Japanese dressing of yuzu, daikon, soy and kaffir lime ties it all together beautifully.
The final savoury course of Herdwick Lamb, Courgette, English Peas, Green Olive, is paired with a Lamoresca Frappato, a wine described as “if a merlot and a pinot noir had a baby”. The red picks up on the sweet notes of the peas, balancing the juicy pink lamb alongside the sharp olive sauce, topped off scrumptiously with a crispy piece of lamb fat.
To finish off are a couple of sweet treats. Strawberry, White Chocolate, Yuzu is devilishly tasty and pays perfect homage to the summer fruit. The Matcha Green Tea & Chocolate Teacake petit four is fabulous, putting a contemporary Japanese spin on an old–school British classic. Of course, there’s a pairing for the desserts, too – and the Milk Punch, made of strawberry, pineapple, weed, lemon zest and Botanist gin, does not disappoint, pleasing not just to the tastebuds but the eyes too, with a delightful pale pink hue.
On the whole the menu is very considered, with some courses offering bold punchiness, while others are nuanced and delicate. Lee Wescott has established himself as one the UK’s most talented chefs and it’s very exciting to see what he has in store for London next.
Photos: Filippo L’Astorina
Lee Westcott is at Carousel x The Botanist until 17th July 2021. For further information and to book visit Carousel’s website here.