Tel: +44 (0)20 7584 4477
Address: 239 Brompton Road, SW3 2EP
Cuisine Type: French
South Kensington, Knightsbridge
The French pride themselves on eating pretty much most things: pigs’ trotters, frogs’ legs, snails, offal and other assorted body parts from various animals. Last spring, The Bloke and I spent a week in the Rhône-Alpes region to eat, drink and admire the mountains (in that order). Stopping for lunch one day, The Bloke (who speaks no French) ordered the plat du jour: t’te de veau. The waiter paused, pencil hovering over his pad and said, picking his words carefully: “You are sure? The dish is very, eeuuuhhhh… special.” The Bloke asked for clarification. “Ze taste… Some people are not, how to say, used to it”, replied the waiter, relieved to see The Bloke turning back to the menu. A minute later, his face fell as The Bloke picked out andouillettes as his alternative.
All those French food lovers out there will have realised that swapping calf head for sausages made from pig and cow stomach, colon and intestines is like narrowly escaping the frying pan and finding yourself well and truly in the fire. But it goes to show that in order to eat the more adventurous French dishes, you really have to go to France; those specialities somehow don’t survive the trip across the Channel. Well, up until recently anyway, because I was amazed to see t’te de veau on the menu at Racine.
The bravery of offering this dish at an upmarket London restaurant sums up Racine and its gutsy, no holds barred attitude to food. Chef Henry Harris’ philosophy is clearly to serve what he loves to cook and eat, and it comes across not only in a reading of the menu, but in the standard of cooking that arrives on your plate. Full of character and flavour, this is food guaranteed to be more memorable than the usual steak au poivre avec pommes frites, so my recommendation is to order something you wouldn’t ordinarily be brave enough to try.
Such as the chilled garlic soup with which I started, perhaps: served with disks of chorizo, this was a punchy yet surprisingly refreshing dish that picked out the sweetness of the garlic without leaving a pungent aftertaste. It’s the sort of dish you’re almost afraid to order for fear of annihilating your taste buds and asphyxiating your dining companion with your breath, but are so glad you did once you sample it, not only because of the astonishing flavour, but the fact you can taste anything at all means your taste buds survived the encounter. Or maybe you’ll be tempted by The Bloke’s main course of whole roast grouse, served with a finger bowl on the side because diners are clearly expected to use more than knife and fork to get the meat off the bone.
The menu changes regularly, using seasonal ingredients to create some of the most exciting food I’ve eaten in London, and at £30-40 a head including wine from a list with plenty of appealing choices, some of the most reasonably priced too. The fact that Racine has picked up a whole host of awards since it opened and was fully booked on the day of our visit suggests that both the critics and the customers agree with me. And you never know, a meal here might even prepare you for the experience of eating in France.