When I was 19 I had a boyfriend who lived in posho Turnham Green. I used to spend weekends there, feeling out of place in the local pub, thinking everyone was sneering at me and my ragged Converse trainers. One pant-twistingly embarrassing moment was when I ordered a bottle of Rioja. "Which one?" asked the barman. "The Spanish one", said I. His eyes rolled skywards.
Four years on, I was back. The sun was shining, people were lounging on the green. The restaurant is situated on a leafy suburban street dotted with Mercedes and BMWs. I'd like to live here. With a rueful shake I banished the unwarranted thought from my head.
The restaurant was empty upon arrival; I whispered my hellos to a friend. We spent a lot of time deliberating over the menu as there was a lot on offer. At £8.50 for starters and £17 for mains, it's a middle priced menu, though I found the supplements scattered around to be irksome. It's a bug bear of mine; either price everything individually, or don't use 'premium' ingredients. An amuse of light, grease-free battered sprats with a gorgeously creamy and tart tartare sauce made me forget.
Quail three ways - poached, tempura-d and confit - was served with sweet potato puree and sherry sauce. I usually avoid sweet potato like the plague since it's the root of all evil, but in the interests of expanding my horizons I've been tentatively trying it. This did not repulse me, which is an enormous compliment. The tempura was crispy, the poached breast was juicy, gamey and cooked to perfection. The star of the show was the confit little legs; I sucked every morsel of meat off the bones.
As we'd pondered over our menu choices, Michael Nadra came to say hello to us and he spoke with great enthusiasm of the 'plat du jour', a risotto with lobster and rocket. He told us that it's his special dish, one that he always makes himself and that he won't leave to the sous chefs. His preference is to cook the rice grains through, so that it doesn't leave them crunchy. After all this, we thought it only best we give it a try. Tasting plates came out and the rice was silky smooth, flavoured lightly with a seafood stock. Lobster meat was sweet and firm with the rocket leaves adding a peppery hit. Perfectly balanced between comforting and luxurious.
Roast cod with summer veg, king prawn veloute and roasted garlic was a beautiful plate. Confusingly, two little lumps of majoram ricotta gnocchi followed on a side dish a minute or two after, what I can only imagine as originally forgotten by the kitchen. The sweetness of the vegetables worked well with the veloute but I felt that somehow it didn't gel properly. A tangle of carrot, a few shaved discs of radish, a spear or two of asparagus, the crunch of mange tout was a bit jumbled underneath that impeccably cooked cod. Given the beauty of the quail dish I couldn't help but regret that neither of us had ordered a meaty main course.
I found it rather difficult to choose from the dessert list. It wasn't particularly inspired; chocolate fondant, fruit salad, ice cream, cheese. Tarte tatin seemed too heavy for the weather we were having, so instead I decided on the sorbet. Our waiter heartily recommended the Greek yoghurt sorbet with honey, perhaps with raspberry and lemon.
The Greek yoghurt sorbet was stand-out. Creamy and without the tang you usually get from frozen yoghurt, the honey sweetened it just so. Lemon and raspberry were also good, but I had only eyes for that particular sphere.
The ambience of the restaurant, at least where we were sitting, seems geared heavily towards dating couples. Candlelit tables, soft music and two seaters lined the walls. Despite feeling like some of the dishes were a touch over-wrought with little piles of leaves and cresses adorning most plates, a smear popping up occasionally, I really enjoyed our meal here; Nadra's skill shines through. I'd love to go back to try out the meat more but my god - what a schlep back South East. An hour and a half, to be precise. Residents of West London, it's not often I say this, but you're lucky things. A lovely little place on your doorstep.
Restaurant Michael Nadra
6/8 Elliot Road
London W4 1PE
Tel: 020 8742 0766