Open daily midday–10pm
Over to W4 to check out the food of Wesley Smalley, a protege of Jean Christophe Novelli, pausing on the way out of the tube station only to marvel at how pretty all the rain has made Chiswick Common look. The glass roof at the back of Charlotte’s is great for watching the moods of the sky change. It was smilingly sunny when we arrived but looked like it was in a really bad mood by the time we left. With the sky providing changing colour schemes, it seems there’s less reason to decorate too extravagantly. There are chocolate brown banquettes down one side and no art on the walls, which lets the little purple oil lamps twinkle away and put you in the kind of relaxing mood you might enjoy pre-spa treatment.
The first thing I liked about Wesley’s menu is the blunt description. Try this for starters (we did): barbequed mackerel, Cornish scallop ceviché, gooseberry, ginger, radish. Beautifully simple. The smokey flavour of barbecue was an inspired match for the oily fish, with the dabs and swirls making not only for a pretty plate, but some lovely tasting cocktails in the mouth. The camembert potato fondant I started with produced a tonguegasm it was so good. You know those melting chocolate puds that you can never resist buying in M&S? It was the savoury version of that: oozy and cheesy and God did I want more.
Roast poussin was a soft little bird that came with a spiced chicken pastilla – a kind of crêpe skinned sausage. Thoughts of crêpe and sausage will only produce the kind of noise from me that Homer Simpson makes when he thinks of doughnuts – the combination was fantastic. The tenderest parts of lamb belly that I chose came rolled and appeared as medallions with stripes from the grill, accompanied by crispy little sweetbreads that were like the bits of KFC you crave, but without the guilt and class snobbery.
Praline and caramel chocolate pot arrived in a Kellner jar as big as a mug topped with a tonka bean milk sorbet that came across like an alternative vanilla sorbet. The scattered honeycomb was much appreciated too. Almond and cherry tartlet was not like the Mr Kipling form I was expecting, more like a airy almond dream. You’re getting the picture by now – there is inventiveness in spades here and the food is matched by a wine list that will take you away from the usual merlot/rioja/pinot noir choices you find everywhere. Friendly staff are also ready to hold your hand and offer guidance to the new choices you’ll hopefully be excited by. It’s the kind of restaurant for people who are bored of restaurants and for £30 for three courses, they’ve even got the pricing right. Perfect.