My companion was, as usual, late. I, unusually, didn’t mind, such was the attention shown to me by the Sam’s Brasserie staff. The delay also gave me the opportunity to familiarise myself with the menu and wine list. Both had a dizzyingly vast choice, and something to suit every pocket as well as every palate. I was glad of the half-hour I had to pore over them, sipping as I did so the Drink of the Day: a White Peach Bellini.
‘S’ having arrived, we ordered quickly – I the saffron risotto with peas, red peppers and Manchego, he oysters from Colchester, with a shallot vinegar. The gorgeous, jewel-like colours of the risotto were more than matched in flavour, the smooth spiciness of the saffron contrasting beautifully with the almost citrusy creaminess of the Manchego. I had ordered oysters at a City restaurant earlier in the week (for, I think, only the second time in my life, before you get any ideas), and was disappointed – they had been opened roughly and were full of shell splinters. This evening’s were perfect, however, being splinter-free, clean, and tasting strongly of the seaside.
I ordered a seared sea bass as my main course, with braised potato, tomato, onion and garlic, and a side of samphire. ‘S’ was typically extravagant, and had two starters: grilled globe artichoke with sauce gribiche, and terrine de campagne with celeriac rémoulade and toast. The bass was perfectly cooked with a golden, crispy skin reminiscent of batter, and melted in the mouth. The puttanesca-esque sauce was beautifully gutsy, and contrasted well with the buttery bitterness of the samphire. Artichoke is as artichoke does, I often feel, but the sauce gribiche was a revelation, taking us some time to unravel, and making this an excellent choice. The terrine was ruggedly complex, and came as a sizeable portion for a starter. ‘S’ and I identified sage and thyme amongst the herbs before giving up and enjoying it hugely. The celeriac and mustard rémoulade put me happily in mind of a salad my companion’s mother used to make; and there were just the right amount of cornichons and caperberries for us both to feel satisfied. More delicious sour-dough toast was offered and accepted.
The double chocolate mousse cake came highly recommended by one of the waiting team, and we understood why. It was perfectly light yet flavourful, and was accompanied by a blackcurrant sorbet which cut through the intense cocoa beautifully. I plumped for a rosé Prosecco and fruit jelly with a pear sorbet. Again this was light, but fantastically floral, as only a rosé can be, and the sorbet was an inspired accompaniment, being neither too sweet nor too sour.
Sam’s opened in 2005 and quickly developed a reputation for exciting dishes prepared using quality ingredients. But it is more than just an excellent restaurant – there is live music at the weekends: soul on Saturdays and jazz on Sundays. And, temptingly, on Mondays they allow you to bring your own bottle of wine if you order from the à la carte menu. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Just make sure you form an orderly queue – I live opposite.
11 Barley Mow Passage
London W4 4PH
020 8987 0555
Open Mon-Wed,Sun 9am-12am; Thu-Sat 9am-12:30am
Underground: Turnham Green