Restaurants over 20 years old holding two Michelin stars are a rare sight these days around London so today we thought we'd go and visit one. Phil Howard has been at The Square over half his life after stints with the legendary Marco Pierre White at Harveys and Albert Roux at Le Gavroche. These days he's the owner of The Square restaurant and author of its two books 'savoury' and 'sweet' both of which are class works of a man dedicated to his craft.
Stepping inside the restaurant the first impression is that it's a big-un...very spacious dining room with the tables well spaced apart allowing your party to have a conversation without disruption from your neighbours. The menu reads beautifully with set lunch menu, a la carte and tasting the offerings provided.
An amuse-bouche was served quickly along with the delicious bread (go for the sourdough if offered) with three different elements on the dish. Potato crisp with leek puree, leek ash and crème fraiche, cured sea bass on fennel meringue with spherified olive oil and a breaded nugget of what I believe was pork. One slight let down on this was finding an eyelash on my sea bass but instead of alerting the staff and causing an unnecessary scene I made a wish and discarded the offending item with good news that I'm still alive and well as a result and the plate of food was delicious.
We began with the famous Lasagne of Crab which has been pride of place on Phil's menu's for over 19 years now. Watching it arrive and having seen the picture in the book of the dish it didn't blow me away......however once you take it apart and taste the dish it becomes apparent why this dish hasn't shifted in all that time, its brilliant. Layers of parsley pasta sheeting encases white crabmeat set with a scallop mousse in a crab veloute, what a start.
Lasagne of Crab
Our wine order then appeared just as we placed our cutlery down on the now demolished crab dish. The sommelier offered his apologies which was fair enough but at two star level this was a bit of a surprise. The positives on the service though is that it is relaxed and by no means overbearing or designed to make you feel uncomfortable, its probably the most chilled that we've ever been in a restaurant of this standard.
For main's we decided on Dexter beef with scorched onion, salsify and cep puree along with Pigs cheek with Iberico shoulder and Pluma, Pedro Ximinez, pickled and pureed apples. Both these were outstanding. The beef with rich red wine sauce was delicious with perfectly cooked vegetables, not to mention the beautiful presentation. The pork dish was a sensation, the smokey flavour of the charred Iberico Pluma with the sharp apple and soft cheek and shoulder was just perfect, it's definitely a candidate for best main course I've ever had in a restaurant....and that takes some doing.
Iberico Pork Cheek
Last but by no means least we had The Square Chocolate Bar for dessert, one dish I was keen to try for real as I've managed to gather the ingredients needed to produce it at home. What came out was stunning, simply presented but so much work and precision had gone into it, you could tell. Chocolate ganache sandwiched between salted caramel and peanut butter shortbread with hazelnuts, milk ice cream and a banana and lime sauce. It ate even better than it sounded, incredibly moreish and the flavours and textures worked perfectly. I can't wait to make it.
The Square Chocolate Bar
The Square therefore is brilliant and easily ranks alongside Gordon Ramsay at Royal Hospital Road and Le Gavroche in my top three. Phil Howard can be immensely proud of his team and even more so his food. In my opinion the food here is three star standard, absolutely no question. The flavours are stronger, simpler and in fact better than pretty much all the restaurants I've eaten at before. With a little work on the service maybe that third star could be within reach.