'He’s obviously a genius at taking simple ingredients and waving a culinary magic wand over them'

Charlotte’s Place

Mon–Sat midday–3pm, 6pm–midnight, Sun midday–11pm

August bank holiday Monday is not a great day for reviewing a restaurant, or so I thought at the time. Specifically, I was not looking forward to trying to write articulately in a notebook after countless rum punches the day before at Carnival. Should you be suffering the kind of bastard behind the eyes I was enduring that day, going to Charlotte’s Place and having them soothe you back into normal operation is to be recommended.

First off, there is nothing too busy in the decor to trouble your eyes, which is sparse to the point of being zen like. I sat facing the lush green of Ealing Common, freshly kissed that day by some gentle drizzle, my ears gently feathered by the sorrowful, yearning jazz of Miles Davis; I felt much better. The restorative vodka tonic they brought me helped too.

We were there to sample the new five course tasting menu that chef Lee Cadden has concocted. He’s obviously some sort of genius at taking simple ingredients and waving a culinary magic wand over them. An amuse bouche that reinvented a comfort food favourite set the bar high. Potato mousse sat in the crispy skin of a small spud, with a sprinkling of parmesan and chives. Down in one it went, leaving in its wake all the good childlike memories you have of a baked potato when you just need a bit of love inside you. Isle of Wight tomatoes arrived poached and turned into a sorbet, which messes with your head a bit: you’re sort of thinking ice cream, but you get the taste of the kind of tomato when you occasionally get a really good one. Sounds weird, I know, but makes you feel like you’re tasting a tomato for the first time.

There are tasting menus for vegetarians and carnivores so we had one of each. The chilled minestrone on the veggie side was beautiful to behold and part constituted by a clear consommé featuring salt and tomato having a love in. It was more clean food for sore heads. The only clanger in the entire 12 dishes came when the ink-poached pollock with harissa chickpeas failed to deliver much taste, the spices having gone AWOL and the headline ingredients being as boring as Matt Damon.

Normal service resumed with the bavette, a cheap cut of meat that exposes kitchen charlatans – if it’s chewy you’ve got an imposter, not a chef. Cadden passed, the steak coming over kind of ‘pulled’ and made glorious by a chervil root puree and the lightest, crispiest onion rings. Two desserts were also exemplary, being both delicate and intelligently constructed. My favourite element was a dark chocolate and orange sorbet, with the citrus taste arriving after a beat or two as a wonderful surprise just when you thought it had gone AWOL.

The trio of Charlotte’s restaurants make a virtue of delivering high end food at accessible prices. Certainly, £35 for food of this quality is a steal, given the imagination in the kitchen and professional delivery from distinctly unsnooty, warm, cheerful staff. I skipped out with the spring in my step restored. Recommended, even if you’re not suffering from a hangover.

Charlotte’s Place, 16 St Matthew’s Road, Ealing W5 3JT; 020 8567 7541; www.charlottes.co.uk/place/

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