Fine dining on a shoestring: Ormer with Bookatable

I’ll eat my socks if Ormer Mayfair doesn’t win a Michelin star this year. The sister restaurant to Shaun Rankin’s highly-decorated original in Jersey launched only nine months ago, but it’s enjoyed runaway popularity with almost everyone, from professional critics to armchair foodies.

It’s all blown up following an appearance on Masterchef, which I personally don’t watch on the basis that watching programmes about food I can’t smell nor taste is very similar to watching porn with your hands tied behind your back. Regardless, there seems to be a lot of masochists out there who do enjoy Masterchef, and subsequently Ormer is now packed out weeks in advance.

I’ve been a few times now. As any Londoner will tell you, any single restaurant that warrants a return visit amidst the city’s dazzling galaxy of choice is a rare and beautiful thing. For me, this puts Ormer in the company of Gunpowder, The Gate and Yauatcha (and all my other favourites, which I wrote about here). Obviously it is expensive. But, if you don’t want to spend £100+ a head on what could be one of the best dinners of your life, there’s an in. Bookatable, long the champion of Michelin-starred set menus at comparatively weeny prices, has an offer that comes in at just £35 a head for three courses, and a glass of champagne or English sparkling wine.

(You’ll be tempted to choose the former, of course, because it’s champagne and you assume it’s the more expensive of the two, but after some VERY thorough research on the latter (hic) I’ve discovered that English wine is where its at – I even wrote a piece about it for Metro, if you’re interested. It’s lighter and less buttery than champagne, like a very premium prosecco, and I’ve found it doesn’t give you such crashing hangovers. I’m currently off champagne for that very reason; I accidentally drank about five gallons of the stuff at a press party a couple of weeks ago and the subsequent two-day hangover culminated in me throwing up in West Ham park, like a proper scummer.)

Ahem. I’ve written before about the food at Ormer, and I’m pleased to report that even the dishes on the relatively affordable set menu are outstanding. They change often, though Bookatable does a pretty good job of keeping the menus updated.

Mike went for the same dish as last time, because he doesn’t give a fig about choosing something other than what you really want for the sake of a poxy blog. To be fair, it is an absolutely stunning dish – roast rabbit with fresh peas, pancetta and a subtle, luxurious whiff of truffle. I chose the significantly less photogenic but nonetheless excellent crab risotto with courgette, fennel ‘ceviche’ and bisque, which was lighter. My only criticism is in the description; I can’t bloody stand it when restaurants try to sex up ingredients with other more fashionable, but completely irrelevant, foodie words. ‘Aubergine caviar’ is one of the worst offenders, but fennel ceviche is up there too. Ceviche is a delicious dish in which some kind of seafood is cured in something acidic – usually lemon or lime juice. Fennel is not seafood. It is a vegetable. You can’t just throw some lemon juice on something and call it ceviche. Is my Friday night G&T a gin ‘ceviche’ because it’s got lemon in it? No, it bloody well isn’t.

Mike the meat-eater’s veal loin with artichoke, confit potato and foie gras tortellini was a artfully arranged stack of vibrant colour. We also ordered a side of smooth, waxy Jersey Royals, because at Ormer, how can you not?

Continuing on my fishy theme, my pine-crusted turbot (£6 supplement) was firm and meaty, but slightly over-seasoned. Other than that, it was a truly lovely piece of fish, but nothing came close to the ‘Iberico Secreto’ Mike had last time – to date one of the best things either of us had ever eaten.

I don’t usually go for three-course set menus because I don’t really have a sweet tooth, so I was delighted to see that there was a no-supplement cheese option on the pudding menu: camembert with orange marmalade, pecans and salted caramel, a weird and wonderful Frankenpud of both sweet and savoury. In all honesty I prefer my cheeses strong and angry rather than milky and mild, but the sweet, salty caramel enveloped in the pillowy folds of dense, creamy camembert was something interesting and new.

Ignoring the coffee souffle completely, Mike rounded things off with a white chocolate cremeaux with shortbread, pomegranate sorbet and champagne jelly, which arrived adorned with fresh flowers and looking for all the world like something Princess Eugenie will wear to Prince Harry’s wedding.

Aside from the tremendous food and top-class service, the thing that sets Ormer apart is its generosity of spirit. As standard there’s a copious supply of homemade crusty bread with fresh, yellow butter; an amuse-bouche, a palate-cleansing pre-dessert and a little box of petits fours to take home. All restaurants care about their bottom line – of course they do, or what’s the point? – but at Ormer you feel less like a customer and more like a guest.

Bookatable’s set menu is available at lunch Tues-Sat and dinner Mon-Sat – get yourself booked in here.

Ormer Mayfair, 7-12 Half Moon St, London, W1J 7BH


Author: Emily Gibson

Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in East London and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.