Five Fields popped into our consciousness with a surprise top spot in last year’s Square Meal Best Restaurant category. The Chelsea newcomer inspired plenty of column inches but not all complementary. In a culinary era where the merit of a chef is largely judged on the simplicity of his dishes, the complex plates of food here have offended some of the more austere London reviewers.
The name Five Fields refers to their farm in East Sussex and chef Taylor Bonnyman wastes no opportunity to carpet his dishes in tiny roots, shots, flowers and sprouts that are presumably plucked from said fields (although on our Autumn visit much of the herbage is clearly from more conventional sources). Does every leaf and stamen contribute to the overall flavours of the foie gras dish below? Not for my palate but it looks gorgeous and doesn’t detract from a delicious parfait.
‘Rockpool’ starter arrives as no less than three separate courses. A zingy bloody mary granita covering diced oyster and cucumber tartare pairs a fantastic dish of Japanese seasoned seafood. A long snaking column of cured mackerel, caviar, smoked eel glazed with miso, bonito flavoured tapioca is anointed with blobs of wasabi foam, pickled ginger and yuzu meringue. All rendered with just enough punch to shine without overpowering each other. We’re basking in this rockpool.
Last of the rock pool dishes -a lovely big langoustine given the Thai treatment- isn’t so successful. Neither the ultra-fresh cold water seafood nor the muted slightly muddy Asian flavours benefits from the arranged marriage. Aside from that, the overall impression (aided by plenty of unpublished extra courses) is of a generous spirit in the kitchen, happily dispensing bountiful produce and beautiful flavours in equal measure.
Main courses are good -at times really lovely- but after such a riot of sweet/smokey/fermented/spicy flavours, the beautifully cooked entree cuts of meat are a little let down by their more restrained European-style garnishes. Pumpkin and cranberry don’t deliver the expected sweet and sourness to the game dish; the snails in the lamb dish could have injected some garlic butter pzazz but didn’t. It’s as if the menu took a deep breath after the joyous round-the-world dash of the starters and is now strolling towards coffee in a far more genteel manner.
Pumpkin, Cranberry and Trompettes
Desserts feature some exciting combinations that work effectively and look lovely on the plate but are only occasionally delicious. Heavy use of usually-savoury ingredients robs them of the satisfying richness that I look for at the end of dinner (beautifully unctuous lemon brûlée is a notable exception but proves the rule).
Champagne mousse, cassis sorbet
Service at Five Fields is a delight. Staff are friendly and attentive to just the right extent. The revelation that the maitre d’ googles each guest’s name before arrival to discover anything that might improve our visit is surprising in a good way. Hospitality is dispensed with charm and professionalism here; in the end (just like the kitchen) it feels flattering that they went to so much trouble.