Welsh chef Bryn Williams has long championed the best of British cuisine from his well-regarded neighbourhood restaurant Odette’s in Primrose Hill, expanding his portfolio in 2015 to include Porth Eirias, which looks out onto the beach at Colwyn Bay. This year has seen him venture for the first time into central London, taking on the riverfront dining space at the historic Somerset House.
This latest addition to the famous institution joins esteemed neighbours including Skye Gyngell’s renowned Spring, which also places a focus on seasonal British food. In a counterpoint to the bright and airy space of the former, here rich and atmospheric interiors, plush with leather banquettes and low-level lighting, subtly play on the nautical background of Somerset House, the historic home to the Navy Board, responsible for the administration of the Royal Navy. Laid out in a carriage-like format of three consecutive rooms, each feeling more intimate and secluded than the next, try and grab a window seat where you might be treated to a view over the River Thames, or at the very least an entertaining hour or two of people watching.
Following the increasingly popular notion of flexitarianism – eating primarily plant-based meals without cutting out meat and fish altogether – here fruit and vegetables are absolutely the star of the show. This mission statement is immediately clear at first glance of the menu, where rib eye steak, red mullet, pork belly and cured salmon are discreetly tucked away in favour of placing other ingredients at the fore in descriptions.
Completely meat-free dishes particularly shine through, starting with the wild garlic soup with pink fir potatoes, nostril clearing in its intensity, best mopped up with a plateful of warm-from-the-oven soda bread that is worth a visit alone. Elsewhere on starters, produce is treated with a similarly deft hand, with neat slices of compressed watermelon further amplifying the freshness of Dorset crab and avocado.
Moving on to the mains, we are immediately drawn to one of Bryn’s favourites – the roast cauliflower with golden raisins, capers and salted grapes, served with a side of creamy polenta. Those who might worry that the lack of traditional proteins will fail to leave them satiated, fear not. As the plate arrives, the large cauliflower ‘steak’ seems almost insurmountable. Cut through with well-balanced sweet and acidic notes, it provides as hearty a dish as the equally generous pork chop, simply and confidently presented with grilled hispi cabbage and topped with apple dressing.
Likewise, desserts avoid fripperies, homing in on sharp, clean flavours presented in a polished, yet unfussy, manner. A perfectly set cheesecake, the richness offset with passion fruit and banana, is an accomplished, if not extraordinary offering. It is outshined by the bay leaf panna cotta, with just a hint of the herb’s aromatic qualities creeping up on the palate, finding the perfect accompaniment in tart blobs of lime curd and blackberry.
Starters, mains, sides and drinks for two from £90
Feast on accomplished veg-centric fare from one of Britain’s renowned names in this impressive historic setting.
Top image by Steven Joyce; bryn-somersethouse.co.uk