Oxeye in Nine Elms: “A dinner waltz conducted with elegance and flavour”
The epitome of an “intimate space” is swathed in tastefully dim light in the dining room of Oxeye. After a few years in the making, Sven-Hanson Britt’s restaurant has finally opened its doors in Nine Elms, in a building that also houses Bar Rex wine bar, a boutique and an art gallery exhibiting work from young and up-and-coming artists. The southern bank of the river is set apart from the buzzing city centre, and Oxeye finds a fitting setting in the quiet Embassy Gardens, separated from the usual fine dining-suspects. The award-winning chef presents an incredibly well-crafted gastronomic poem, brought to London from the fields of South Derbyshire and other select British producers. Six tables, an open kitchen, interior design featuring smooth lines and shadows: the scene is set for an exclusive and private experience.
The dance begins with a series of canapés, immediately setting expectations for the tasting menu. First to arrive at the table is a dip of beer and cheese that tickles the taste buds, followed by bread and butter. The grains for the various breads served by the restaurant are ground in-house, so we are presented with freshly baked sourdough with smoked potato, and salty carta musica (Sardinian thin crackers) to spread with Brightwell Ash goat cheese and bitter herbs. The wine pairing bears the Union Jack throughout, with some bold choices along the way. Tickerage, a classic cuvée from 2013, is a crisp glass that leads the way for the fish-based final round of canapés. Presented on a verdant tray, they are a delicate collection of surprises, particularly the red raw prawn.
Another revelation awaits for the first course: Isley Walton Fallow Deer with pickled abalone, Oxeye XO and juniper bagel. The latter is actually a tiny bagel, for a build-your-own-(mini)bagel activity: fun and tasty. With Hand-Dived Scallop, Britt plays with scents and mellow flavours (a theme that recurs in the meat courses). The mollusc, crispy on the outside, has been grilled over blackcurrant branches; a slightly grassy aroma marries with koginat squash and is pierced through by Sussex yuzu, all recalled in the citrusy notes of Heppington, a 2020 chardonnay from Kent.
A grain thought to be lost forever, Charleston Gold Rice has been revived by the population of South America. An aromatic donabe version is finished here with chestnut and served with a Chargrilled Swede Consommé. Rather unusually, at this point we are poured a glass of beer, but the lingering of the roasted artichoke at the base of the donabe satisfyingly finds the perfect companion in the round Kernel India Double Porter.
In the Braised Cornish Hake we enjoy once again the delightful blending and weaving of herbal whiffs and tender meat. The sea travels through the wood in the girolles with a creamy base of beach herbs and cauliflower. The English sparkling wine, Nyetimber’s Tillington Single Vineyard, envelops it all with a tingling vanilla aftertaste. We move to dry land and a juicy cut of Longhorn Aged in Salted Oak Leaves, accompanied by white flower shiitake mushroom topped with ashitaba. The tart acidity of the Danbury Ridge wine contrasts well with the earthy tones of the dish.
Bubbly and fruity, almost like a soft drink, the Oxney Organic cider adds brio to the Winslade cheese. The sharp tang of the Grapefruit Sorbet splashed in sloe gin and basil cuts through the replenishing core of the menu. A happy ending, though, can be judged only by a sweet finale, and the Arhuaco Businchari Cocoa is a comforting, but gentle farewell: chocolate is glossed with birch syrup and buckwheat, and balanced with Sark sea salt. The honeyed finish is nicely reprised by a Hattingley Entice dessert wine.
At Oxeye, the creativity of the canapés and opening dishes is exceptional, and this spectacular start raises the bar for the rest of the meal. The impression we get is that, after the first dishes, fireworks are expected at every turn; instead, we are presented with a perfectly weighted and delectable journey, a dinner waltz conducted with elegance and flavour, coordinated with intriguing drinks choices.
Photos: Virginie Viche
To book a table at Oxeye, Embassy Gardens 14 New Union Square Nine Elms London SW11 7AX, call 020 8067 7532 or visit their website here.