In three words: Exciting, Diverse, Confident
The Lowdown: The people of Belgravia know how to eat, that’s for sure. It is an area of discerning tastes, where standards run high, but simply loading caviar onto a plate and doubling the price isn’t going to impress anyone. Customers want fresh, inventive, aesthetically pleasing food that sets taste buds singing. So none of this ‘All fur coat and no knickers’ business, where an impressive façade falls short at the plate.
Enter Sophie Michell, currently Britain’s youngest female executive chef. She’s mixing things up while also staying true to what is important to her quality-loving patrons. The menu shines with an array of fresh, vibrant dishes that let the ingredients speak for themselves, while promoting both healthy eating and the joy of creating exciting combinations.
Location: In Belgravia, that beautiful and almost transcendental place of glowing white buildings, wide, clean boulevards and cars that cost more than most people’s houses. It’s fun to wander through these streets to the restaurant, purely because it doesn’t feel at all like London (and you can play the game of ‘imagine if I lived here).
The Occasion: One draw of Pont St is that it offers a self-titled ‘all day dining experience’. This means you can come in for a selection of breakfasts (including Arabic, Healthy or Nutella Stuffed French Toast); chow down on a burger; indulge in afternoon tea; or escape for an evening of delectable dinner. The clever design of the restaurant means that it accomplishes the smooth transition between relaxed-casual to refined date-night.
Decor: Modern, stylish and elegant – you could almost be dining in the interior shoot for Beautiful Homes magazine. Geometrically tiled floors; rough brick walls; slick seating and bags of light make for a mish-mash of chic contrasts that really work, and huge canvases of art add to the New York cool. A table running through the centre is crowded with books, curios and artifacts, embracing a feeling a global eclecticism that is cleverly mirrored on the menu.
Atmosphere: When we visited on a Thursday evening, there was a chilled out vibe in the restaurant, with evening sunlight streaming into the airy room. The seating is superb–we nestled in one of the semicircular window booths, which gave the sensation of being almost outside. We could see the blue sky above, while being ensconced in our teal-velvet cocoon of eating. A trip upstairs to the hotel bar showed a more trendy, Bohemian side that was rather seductive.
Menu Concept: Sophie Michelle has no doubt achieved her highly regarded position by sticking to a passionate ethos about the quality of her produce. The result is an eclectic and varied menu that embraces many different cuisines, including Asian, Mediterranean and New World dishes.
What We Ate: Although perhaps crass to discuss the bread-basket (Giles Coren would be fuming), I have to say that the warm cheese scone we were greeted with was incredible. It set the precedent for food that just thrilled the taste buds with every bite, and we knew then we were in for a treat. My dining partner and I could have happily eaten anything on the menu, what really caught our attention was the Burrata – my new cheese addiction. Luckily the variety served here exceeded my (already high) expectations – a huge globe of glossy white cheese, resting regally on a heap of heirloom tomatoes and drizzled in the liquid sunshine of Sicilian Cold Pressed EVO oil. We cut into the cheese and watched as goodness seeped out to mingle with basil and capers. Combine this with the pure burst of fresh tomato, and it was as if we were transported to a sun-dappled Italian vineyard. We were also advised by our knowledgeable and completely indispensable waiter Julian to try the crispy squid, and any seafood lovers should do the same – neither greasy nor dry, it had genius accompaniment of fried slivers of garlic. Calamari will never be the same.
For main courses, the dish that stood out for me was the lamb. I love oriental flavours, and the promise of miso glaze, as well as sesame aubergine and pickle cucumber, was too much. It arrived as tender and pink as I’d hoped, slightly sticky and sweet, and with that indescribable umami flavour that somehow makes all the difference. We were once more advised to try the truffle mash, and this was deemed ‘orgasmic’ by my dining partner, who would have probably been satisfied with a bowl of this luxurious bowl of silk-like carbs. And those that think pasta is a heavy dish need to try the Crab Ravioli – ridiculously fresh, one bite into those pillows of pasta yielded a sensational burst of seafood, accompanied by pops of emerald green peas.
To finish the meal, just had to have treacle tart, and I haven’t had one this good since being a child – lashings of clotted cream, a pastry just thick enough, and that sticky, unctuous golden filling that brings back memories of scraping bowls clean at grandma’s house.
Overall: What I loved about Pont St is the dishes all have superb twists – Sophie Michell is a woman who isn’t afraid to be adventurous, but knows where to draw the line. By this I mean the ingredients aren’t overshadowed by ambition. Everything from the coconut fish curry to the chicken paillard have an unmistakable flair, and are the work of an intelligent and competent chef for sure. I feel very honoured to have caught her early in the career, and have a feeling it’s a meal I will be relaying to foodie friends for a while to come.