Review: Odette’s, Primrose Hill

There is a new(ish) restaurant in Richmond which has a nice big sign beside the door that reads: “Richmond’s Favourite Neighbourhood Restaurant”. ORLY? D’you know what, I rather think the good people of Richmond will be the judge of that. The laurel of “neighbourhood restaurant” is something you earn by consistently providing good food at fair prices in a welcoming atmosphere to the fine burghers of a town or district for a number of years. Writing it on your door the day you open does not make it so.

I won’t embarrass the place by naming it (*cough* Moomba *cough*), but that sign alone has deterred me from ever venturing through their door. Ever. I’m funny like that.

By contrast, as we sat sipping our coffees at the end of our meal at Odette’s we all agreed that if we lived anywhere near Primrose Hill we would eat here all the time. As soon as we walked in we felt at home. The décor is comfortable, the layout thoughtful and helped immensely by the restaurant being spread over a number of rooms in a couple of knocked-through buildings; three other tables would be the most you’d ever be dining with. The service was friendly and although we were kept entertained by the occasional hiccups from the clearly

in-training waitresses who were serving us, it was charming and unannoying. That’s a lesson for anyone: service slips are eminently forgiveable with a smile and a friendly attitude. Oh, and the food was all faultless and highly approachable. That’s how you become a beloved neighbourhood restaurant.

Where shall we start? Starters. Mine was a crispy coated duck egg, essentially what you’d get if you took the pork out of a scotch egg, with a tangy mixture of mustardy celeriac, sliced truffles and watercress. I found the watercress a bit aggressive alongside what were otherwise calming and amiably gentle flavours. Maureen’s terrine of pig’s head and black pudding was a slab of dense and meaty excellence. If pubs ever manage to come up with terrines like this I’d order them a lot more often. Across the table there were cooing noises over lovely looking crab lasagnas, but they disappeared before I could sample one.

Mutton for main, presumably a piece of medium-rare loin (I’m rubbish at identifying cuts) served with long slivers of pickled salsify and an intensely sweet mint sauce. I must admit I’ve had better mutton for flavour before, but the combination with the salsify was excellent and a startlingly good mint sauce brought me out in a happy smile. My favourite touch was the mini shepherd’s pie on the side, and here the mutton really spoke to me.

My dessert of pistachio cake topped with nicely caramelised pieces of a sharp apple and blobs of cloud-soft calvados cream was excellent. But on the other hand, the dramatically coloured and perfectly shaped blackberry souffles across the way were equally excellent and had me a tiny bit envious once I’d tasted one. And on the other other hand,

Maureen’s sharp-sweet lemon parfait topped with an exquisite white meringue with just the right touch of scorching was universally agreed to be best of all. Good puds.

Odette’s provide a very accomplished meal, with a good wine list, in a very convivial setting. Nothing here is going to astonish or amaze anyone, but nothing is going to disappoint either. The price seems about right, around £36 for three courses a la carte, and there looks to be a superb bargain on set lunches. I’m almost tempted to move to Primrose Hill just so it can be my local.

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