db Eats: Charlotte’s W4

While commonly associated with yummy mummies and cutesy cake shops, Chiswick is officially hip.

Not only has Vinoteca set up a successful fourth site here, run by the affable Gus Gluck, but edgy Michelin-starred restaurant Hedone, the debut venture of self-taught Swede Mikael Jonsson, continues to lure central Londoners in their droves. Most recently, American burger and shake shack Jackson & Rye quietly opened a sister site to its Soho original a squirt of Ketchup away from the new Byron on the High Road.

Long before all this hipsterfication took place, Charlotte’s W4 began serving the best cocktails in the area. Opening in 2010, it set out to make itself known by the quality of its bar, headed up by dashing Frenchman Fredi Viaud of Shoreditch House and Hoxton Pony fame.

All of its purées, infusions and cordials are made in house and cocktails are seasonally focused, with new addition the Twisted Swan’s Neck blending homemade blackberry cordial with Aperol, a splash of pink grapefruit juice and vodka from nearby distillery Sipsmith, which recently upped sticks from Hammersmith to Chiswick.

The Rifle meanwhile, blends smoked blackberry and sage cordial with rye whiskey, Noilly Prat Ambre, sugar and lemon.

Gin Mondays have become something of an institution at Charlotte’s. Running since 2012, every Monday night a different gin producer hosts a “gin school” offering tutored tastings and a free G&T to attendees.

On the night of my visit, with Harvey Nichols wine and spirits buyer Ivan Dixon in tow, Adnams was showing off its Copper House Gin, which uses hibiscus flower as a botanical. Never having been a G&T nut, Viaud kindly made me a pretty pink Clover Club instead, with the hibiscus in the gin tarting it up.

langoustines with lemon mayo

In keeping with the zeitgeist, Charlotte’s focuses on modern British dishes made with local seasonal ingredients.

At the helm is West London-born head chef Lee Cadden, who champions the less loved parts of cow and pig, putting the likes of ox heart and pig’s cheeks on the menu.

Having come by way of Claude Bosi’s gastropub, The Malt House in Fulham, Cadden has been quick to put his culinary stamp on the restaurant. Like Lima London, Charlotte’s main dining room is light and airy due to its vaulted glass ceiling.

Chocolate brown leather banquettes and colonial fans add to the cosy atmosphere of the room, which, on our visit, was buzzing with animated banter.

Our feast kicked off in a decadent fashion with salty pork crackers, which were how I’d imagine the love child of a prawn cracker and pork crackling to taste; and profiterole-shaped truffle puffs, which I can only describe as liquid crack, such was their molten, truffle-scented allure.

Next came a duo of super fresh langoustines served with zingy lemon mayo. Post pincer removal, the sweet, meaty morsels were a joyful mouthful.

duck liver mousse with hazelnuts

My exquisitely executed starter, formed of a mushroom-coloured layer of duck liver mousse dotted with halved hazelnuts served in a Kilner jar with a tiny toasted brioche bun, proved the highlight of the meal.

Whipped to within an inch of its life, the texture was like a silk scarf on a naked neck, and the flavour intensely rich and creamy, given crunch by the hazelnuts.

A triumph, it recalled happy memories of a foie gras parfait enjoyed years before at neighbouring Michelin-starred restaurant La Trompette, along with Eric Chavot’s heavenly chicken liver parfait at Brasserie Chavot in Mayfair.

The main event was equally indulgent: butter poached plaice with foamed razor clams on a bed of salty samphire. Golden from the poaching, the hunks of swan white fish were silky and pleasingly meaty, given added life by the crunchy samphire, a mouthful of which transported me to a wind-whipped beach, while garlic-laced new potatoes sent me over the edge.

butter poached plaice with razor clams and samphire

With every wine on the list now on offer by the glass, we were spoilt for choice. To pair with the plaice, I chose Fattoria San Lorenzo Verdicchio Superior 2012, which proved mellow and beautifully textured, with citrus notes and a nutty finish.

Ending on a (sugar) high, I couldn’t resist tying the donut with salted caramel and sour apple. The size of a Yorkshire pudding, the sugar-coated ball of sin took me back to Friday nights on Brighton Pier and that most nostalgic of smells – fat and sugar crafted into tiny ring donuts sold in red and white striped paper bags.

But this was a donut with a difference, the slick of salted caramel lifting it into another realm of loveliness, with the sour apple adding sophistication and bite.

To pair, a golden glass of Domaine de l’Ancienne Cure Monbazillac L’abbaye 2007 added honey, spice, poached pear and mandarin to the mix. Intense and complex, it complemented rather than overpowered the pud.

With London’s dizzying array of restaurants, it’s easy to be lazy and stick to central locations, but this would mean missing out on much magic. For gin lovers, cocktail geeks and foodies alike, Charlotte’s Bistro has much to recommend it. Cadden seems to be shining in the kitchen, with dishes giving La Trompette serious competition.

A neighbourhood gem, Charlotte’s is a must if you find yourself in the wilds of W4, and worth a detour if you’re in the mood for clever cocktails, delicious dishes and unstuffy service.

Charlotte’s W4, 6 Turnham Green Terrace, London W4 1QP; Tel: +44 (0)20 8742 3590

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