Rabbit in Chelsea: “The most delicious red wine jus I have ever tasted”
Ah, the King’s Road, filled with memories of gallivanting into and stumbling out of Raffles in its peak era. Our intentions in Chelsea were much less debaucherous – this time, we were on the legendary street to review Rabbit, a farm-to-table restaurant with a reputation that precedes it.
On walking in we were warmly received and taken to our table, where we had a great view of the chefs put finishing flourishes to their dishes and calling out for service. Around us there was a surprising level of convivial buzz for a Tuesday evening. The atmosphere was friendly, rustic and very much a loving ode to the countryside: tractor parts are pinned to the walls, cute deer appear on cushions and wood is dotted throughout. This all makes a lot of sense when one is aware that Rabbit is a family restaurant. It’s run by three brothers who use wild, foraged and locally grown ingredients from their own farm in West Sussex. The restaurant is a love letter to their childhood home, and it’s all adorable.
We started our meal with the Mushroom Marmite Éclairs – Marmite haters, don’t look away, there’s actually none of it in the making of this dish. A short but sweet bite into this glorious creation offers a bomb of umami. At first, it’s buttery and sweet, due to the pastry and the creamy egg confit smeared on top, but a further second takes one into lip-smacking saltiness. The amuse-bouche is a must-try.
Hugely contrasting was what came next: the Baharat Spiced Cauliflower. It was delightfully light, with subtle spicing that didn’t overpower the vegetable. The pickled currants on the dish were surprising: I’m usually anti-raisin, but they somehow worked a treat. Next, the South Coast Scallops. What arrived were two small, slightly charred, perfectly cooked melt-in the-mouth scallops, accompanied by flavours that all work beautifully. Pancetta, a creamy cauliflower purée, hidden slivers of apple and an enjoyably salty dollop of caviar all sang in choir-like harmony.
Our mains were also polar opposites, and so we shared them. One was the South Coast Cod and the other the Braised Short Rib. The meaty fish sat in a pool of saffron velouté, topped with soft peppers and fennel. A forkful of everything offered delicate, light flavours that were led largely by the unique aroma of the orange spice. While I enjoyed the fish, the beef course spoke to me as intently as a heartbroken girl in the ladies’ bathroom at Raffles. It was a generous dish with some of the most deliciously rich and glossy red wine jus I have ever tasted. The meat fell apart with a low-impact drag of a fork, the truffled celeriac was cooked well, and the rainbow chard added the perfect bit of crunch to counter all the softness.
Though we couldn’t even finish our mains, there’s always room for dessert. A stunning Honey and Rosemary Yoghurt Pannacotta and a cheese board finished things off with flair in our countryside home for the evening. The former was a pleasant surprise for not being overly sweet. It was light, airy and perfectly balanced when eaten with its accompanying raspberry consommé and oat crumble. The cheese board was equally as enjoyable – with cheddar, goats cheese and an Isle of White Blue to boot.
Rabbit calls its food “local and wild”, and it was hearty, homely and executed with finesse. What’s more, the restaurant itself was wonderfully welcoming and warm. A return to the old haunt couldn’t have gone much better.
Photos: Virginie Viche
To book a table at Rabbit, 172 King’s Road London SW3 4UP, call 020 3750 0172 or visit their website here.