Review: The Chancery Restaurant – British With Hints of Flair
Published 23 January 2011
Last Friday I went to The Chancery for dinner. I’ve heard it mentioned several times before in the past as an interesting small British restaurant to visit, and when an email from the restaurant came through offering 50% off the set menu throughout January, I knew I had to take up the offer and give The Chancery a try.
The set menu at The Chancery is chock full of classic British dishes as well as some typical European influences, such as Roasted Quail, Goats Cheese and Beetroot Salad, Roast Rump of Lamb. I was a bit cautious when I viewed the menu, as having a very standard menu of classic dishes is often a signal that it is either a very mediocre restaurant following a recipe book, or a horribly expensive hotel restaurant playing it safe.
The Chancery turned out to be neither; while the dishes on the menu do sound quite classic and have the standard combinations of ingredients and tastes, the presentation of the food was an absolute delight and the cooking quality was superb. For starters, I had the pork belly and langoustine in a red wine beurre blanc, mostly because that day I was craving for some pork. It was arranged with finesse on a plate, and surprisingly, was quite substantial in portion. The pork belly was some of the best I’d ever had, with a just-right crispy skin and melt-in-your-mouth meat, seasoned well. The langoustines were a bit on the small side, but were grilled nicely. The sauce could have been a bit more plentiful, but in truth, the meats didn’t really need much sauce anyways.
My patner had the roasted quail with winter mushroom farce (?) and lentils in a port glaze, which was also quite a substantial starter. The slice of quail that I managed to snatch off her plate was cooked well, still tender and moist.
Having had two really good size starters, we had this anticipation in mind that the mains would be too much to finish, but when they arrived, my roast rump of lamb with a bean cassoulet and thyme sauce seemed to be smaller than my partner’s roasted quail starter! Her fillet of red snapper with celery puree and truffle essence was a decent portion. Both main dishes were cooked well, with the lamb a nice medium rare that wasn’t too bloody but still had a very juicy and tender texture.
Dessert-wise, we thought the menu was a bit too heavy on chocolate and ice creams, with two ice cream items and two chocolate choices as well. I went for the chestnut and vanilla mille-feuilles with whisky ice cream, which I think was the dish that most intrigued me out of the entire menu. It arrived exactly as it was described, presented well on a sophisticated black stone slab, which worked rather well. The whisky ice cream turned out to be just perfect, not too strong and sour but with the warm whisky taste lingering slightly in your mouth after a spoonful of ice cream. The mille-feuille was a bit disappointing. The chestnut and vanilla filling was too subtle for a bland thing like a mille-feuille, and something richer like chocolate would have gone better with it.
My partner’s lemon and lime souffle with earl grey ice cream contained two interesting items, although we looked on in quizzical surprise when our waiter proceeded to spoon the ice cream and dump it into the souffle without asking her first. I suppose souffles and ice cream normally go together, but discretion of mixing them should still reside with the diner, no?
The three courses at The Chancery (apart from the dessert) were quite traditional combinations of flavours. While it was a sophisticated combination and executed to perfection, The Chancery’s menu does scream of a traditional business lunch or dinner venue, albeit at the higher end.
However, during our meal, we did receive some interesting extra appetisers, courtesy of the chef! The first came before the starters, a mushroom arancini, which is a deep fried risotto ball popular as a snack in Italy. Great little tidbit to calm the hungry stomachs, and well cooked.
The second was just before our desserts, which some popcorn ice cream arrived, which really did have the slightly buttery, slightly salty, and slightly smoky flavour of popcorn! In fact, we thought it was actually better than the earl grey ice cream and the whisky ice cream that was part of the regular menu, but can see how it might not really fit into a business dinner set menu. Especially for a restaurant that’s just around the corner from the stiff and suited Lincoln’s Inn.
Nevertheless, £17.25 (after 50% off) for a very well executed and delicious 3 course meal at The Chancery was a bargain in my book. Disappointingly, though, was that the service charge was 12.5%, and on the full amount before discount, and so actually turned out to be 25%. But The Chancery will be on my list of good restaurants in the Holborn area, and hopefully the head chef there will be brave enough to tinker with his set menu and add a few more adventurous dishes!
The Chancery Restaurant
Address: 9 Cursitor Street, Holborn, London EC4A 1LL (map)
Nearest Tube Stations: Holborn tube station (10 minute walk), Chancery Lane tube station
Booking/reservation tel: 020 7831 4000
To get the 50% discount off the 3-course set menu, quote “January Email” when booking.