The restaurant world is a small…small place indeed.
I first heard about Rabbit from a guest who attended a WhatWeAte meal with me, as I later found out that she was an apprentice chef at this new establishment in one of the most affluent areas of London. Since then, she has moved on to pursue an international cooking adventure. Nevertheless, raving reviews of Rabbit made me curious about the restaurant that left so many of London critics clamour for its countrified goodness. They must be doing something right!
I easily spotted Rabbit as I walked down Kings Road. It stood out amongst all the rest of the old-fashioned stores and classic restaurants who were its neighbours. “RABBIT” in large block letters were fixed to a shiny corrugated metal board, very shabby farm chic, and very trendy.
The interior design didn’t disappoint either as the rustic charm continued with iron tractor seats, tractor bonnets as wine storage, wooden benches, and random items of taxidermy spread throughout. Despite all of these items thrown in together, it was surprisingly cosy and filled with warmth. What felt like a scene straight out of Babe the movie, it was the place to get in touch with my inner bumpkin.
As we arrived early for a Saturday night, we were seated in the corner bench seats in the L-shaped restaurant, which gave me a prime view of the relaxed kitchen and the chance to survey the offering from what everyone else ordered.
What really set me at ease was the sweet and extremely friendly staff. I felt like I was chatting to a close friend as our hostess explained the dishes of the day (their a la carte menu changes daily!). The relaxed atmosphere came through the staff’s dress code of jeans and shirt attire, and their infectious enthusiasm for each dish as if they were critics from a MasterChef cooking show.
Not a conventional menu, which made the decision making process very hard for an indecisive diner such as myself. Consisting of descriptions such as “mouthfuls”, “fast cooking” and “slow cooking”, I had to scratch my head to read through it again. The hostess recommended that 2 or 3 dishes per person would be perfect for us. As a small bunny with less appetite, I opted for two, so did my friend, with the hope to save enough room for desserts.
Farm to table, this little bunny was ready to forage! 🙂
First up, lamb chips, filled with tenderly soft pulled lamb stuffed inside a Spanish styled croquette, were served with a generous helping of parsley and harissa. One bite and I was in heaven. Just look at how gooey this lamb was!
Wrapped in the warmth of the crispy breaded coating, the flavours of spiced lamb just exploded with that harissa paste. If there was one dish to order, I recommend to make sure you get yourself some of this croquette chips action.
At this point, the wild yeast bread arrived as a cute little pretty round thing served on a wooden cutting board with a slather of soft salted butter. Just the way I like it. One of the small joys of life is soft spreadable butter, not the cold hard pieces you often get in restaurants these days.
Next up, hake and salsify served with mussels and sea spinach sat in perfect harmony in this beautiful plate of food. Hake is a delicate fish, and the understated flavours danced together very well with a burst of shellfish, sea, and sand.
Ever tried duck liver served in a tempura? I have now. It shared a plate with red wine lentils, bacon jam, celandine and lovage. I don’t usually like offal, but since I tried Jose Pizarro’s chicken liver tapas dish a few weeks ago, I was a convert. The tempura concept was niche, but I think the duck liver deserved the centre stage on their own. Solid execution with precision and the liver was cooked just right to medium well.
Our hostess highly recommended we try the mushroom ravioli with wiltshire truffle, sage and ramson. The rabbit ravioli was the dish du jour in the last season, so of course I obliged! The ravioli bursted open with a mouthful of mushroom goodness and the truffle layered on even more flavours. The only regret was that I wished there were more than two ravioli on the plate. But that’s small plates for you!
Last main dish was quail with celeriac, rhubarb and black cabbage. The quail needed more flavours in my opinion but was tender and moist. I will probably try another dish next time as compared to the other four, it didn’t wow me as much as I expected. Perhaps small birds were harder to cook well!
I have read about the famed Shed Magnum vienetta parfait. But I was also torn between this and the treacle tart. I gave in to the parfait, because even the name sounded like a mouthful! Wasn’t disappointed for sure, as I was rewarded with light fluffy layers of parfait served in an ice-cream styled sandwich in between layers of Magnum chocolate crunch with salted caramel. What could have gone wrong with this perfect combination of flavours anyway? 🙂
After rolling myself out of the wooden bench seats being absolutely stuffed, I felt for a moment that I wasn’t in Chelsea in the heart of London. But rather, I was taken on a journey through the British countryside with dishes which were delivered from farm to table, moo-ing and kicking to the plate. Solid execution of cooking skills with wild imaginations were responsible to bring these dishes alive. Cheers to that, Rabbit!
172 King’s Road, Chelsea, London SW3 4UP