Now please don’t misunderstand me, I am not anti-Antipodean. In fact I was once in love with a very nice Kiwi and still number both Kiwis and Aussies amongst the most long-standing of my friends. But unfortunately there are some who have traded the brash restaurants of Sydney – as I suspect in this case – for the more fashionable watering holes of SW3 and do not know how to behave.
Medlar is located just about where the King’s Road twists dramatically between World’s End and the turn off to Battersea and the South. It’s an enigmatic section of this famous road, one-time route of Tudor kings between Whitehall and Hampton Court, where residential houses sit beside exclusive boutique shops and cafes, opposite a grim post-War housing estate. It doesn’t quite know what it wants to be, on the border of the no man’s land where the King’s Road shopping experience has ended but the pretentious antique shops marking the eastern borders of Fulham have not yet begun and where it is not unknown for the dimmer clients of the estate agent business to use terms like ‘Chelsea borders’. It is also sadly the domain of that variety of Londoner whose vocal characteristic can only be described as ‘braying’. In relation to the noise a donkey makes, that is.
This is a restaurant where you can hold a normal conversation without raising your voice. There is plenty of personal space around your seat and so don’t feel inhibited conversation-wise. This I feel is very important; a visit to a restaurant should be as comfortable as meeting friends in your own home, but clearly a different gastronomic experience. I think there is a perfect match somewhere that combines the relaxation of home with the kind of food that you cannot get at home, but with your own wine. Apart from the obvious expense if you wander around a restaurant wine list, you might feel in the mood for something unusual like a shot of home-distilled damson vodka with the cheese. And I cannot understand why English restaurants insist on making pudding and cheese mutually exclusive on the menu. In France the cheese comes after the main course and before pudding. This seems eminently sensible to me and has a natural order about it. But not, it seems, in England. At Medlar they also have white tablecloths, pepper and salt cellars that work properly and no unnecessary table clutter, all of which meet my personal environmental essentials criteria without a hitch.
On the night in question we stuck with a bottle of the house champagne, which at £10 a glass and with three of us drinking meant that it made as much sense to buy the bottle, and a Bordeaux which I thought was a good find on a wine list that was too extensive at the high end. It definitely had something on it for every taste, though. In our case we were on a fixed-price-per-three-course daily menu for the food, which we all felt was good value for London. Unfortunately writing three months after the event I have lost my notes on exactly what it was that we drank and had to eat, but there was nothing to fault in either presentation or content.
Back to the Australians for a moment. They were in a group at a neighbouring table. Three men and three brassy looking women who clearly didn’t have an off switch or a volume control knob between them. I suppose it’s a sign of the times when people feel they can behave in any manner they want just because they are paying. Luckily they were an early sitting so left quite quickly. Our host for the evening – an Irish friend, so without any of the diffidence of the English – made it clear what she thought, after which they did shut up a bit. One problem with wood floors is that it makes the place resound to loud conversation. This is the case here.
The starters were fresh seasonal items and I remember the early English asparagus was especially good. For the main course the beef was something to remember as well. This is definitely not a place that will disappoint on the epicurean front. A little under three hundred for the three of us was the final result if I recall. The alcohol ran to some sticky wine and we had coffees, which weren’t part of the fixed price deal. The great thing was that we could all stagger home afterwards and unanimously decided that we would be going again.