Instead the negative reviews (there are few!) gripe about a “lack of atmosphere”. Well, Fraiche is a small dining room; chef Mark only caters for 12 covers, that’s it. It’s a very modern and fun space, with video projectors and some nice lighting. And frankly, I think you bring your own atmosphere. We chatted with the waiters all evening – really great pair of guys, very enthusiastic and informed. When we ate at 5 North Street we had the place entirely to ourselves. Loved it. If you need to be surrounded by a bunch of other sussurating, masticating diners to feel like a place has “atmosphere” then what you’re really after is a Pizza Express. Hey, just my opinion!My opinion of Fraiche is that this chef can cook his socks off. We started with a shot of rhubarb bitters, a magic balance of sweet/sour/bitter and the proper defintion of “amuse bouche”. My mouth was amused and ready for the feast. The “summer tree” was a playful tree prop bedecked with foraged stuff and a lovely piece of air-dried ham. There was a beautiful bright pea and goat curd dish afterwards that I could have eaten all night, followed by a truly knock-out little tartare of scallop with grapefruit and avocado.
Carrot textures next, with crispy chicken skin providing the umami, along with a good sprinkling of summer truffle. Pureed, sorbet, pickled, roasted, tiny sprouts, there was pretty much everything you could do with a carrot on here. The final starter was a really funky pressed block of watermelon contrasted with a crispy salt/fish piece of tuna skin. What I was really loving about the menu at Fraiche was how bright and punchy everything tasted.The sea trout was another great example, a gloriously glistening piece of melt-in-the-mouth fish with a really vivid seaweed butter and plenty of bright orange salty eggs, with herbal notes from aniseedy sprouts and sumac. The main course was lamb (again! It feels like from May to Sept you can’t move for lamb mains on tasting menus!) and it was an outstanding specimen, both of lamb and of finding flavours to make a dish stand out – in this case a beautiful block of pressed aubergine that formed the sweet/savoury backbone of this plate.
The main dessert, following three spiffy palate-cleansers, was a plate of raspberry textures including some lovely jellies and a honey crisp. The magic touch here were the blobs of smoked goat milk yoghurt, a really powerful train-yard flavour that sat perfectly with the rich fruit and lingered on the palate while I waited for a very good selection of well-kept cheeses. Even their cheese board is inventive, each cheese paired with an unusual condiment – pistachio powder was particularly wow.So, a cracking tasting menu at Fraiche, and my favourite meal in a long while. It basically stands up in the same league with L’Enclume, Noma, Casamia and co. We took a wine pairing, and they certainly didn’t shy from some whacky options – like the funky Jura vin jaune with our first course. For those of you who like a good nosebag, I must add that this was the first time I’ve ever had a full tasting menu, ordered an additional cheese course, and still left the restaurant feeling comfortably full rather than properly stuffed. Perfect for me, maybe not enough for some. Anyway I loved Fraiche and can’t recommend it enough.