23 Frith Street Soho W1D 4RR tradesoho.co.uk/anglotrade
What do you get when you open up a restaurant designed only for the restaurant trade to the public? Mighty good cooking with a very cool ambience, that’s what.
I once asked a musician what it was like going out to play in front of ten thousand people. He said he always got nervous but it wasn’t as bad as playing on Jools Holland’s Later.
The reason, of course, is that playing in front of other musicians is serious peer pressure. The other musicians might not play in your genre, but they can spot a fluffed note or a missed beat with ease.
So, imagine being the chef at Trade, where the majority of your customers are going to be chefs and other hospitality professionals. Who’d want that job?
Well Mark Jarvis for one. Mark is chef-patron of the renowned Anglo Restaurant and he has gone into business with Trade (boom tish) to create Anglo @ TRADE to deliver his Michelin-star flavours.
Ã¢â‚¬ËœWhat use is all this to us’, I hear you cry,’it’s a private members club isn’t it?’. Well yes, it is, but a limited number of covers each day are being made available to non-members who book to experience the tasting menu.
So, we went over at lunchtime to try a few dishes.The club is at the bottom of Greek Street in Soho.
Its proximity to Old Compton Street, combined with its name, might lead one to think it was something other than a restaurant and lead to consequent hilarious misunderstandings. However, a simple door leads to another that takes you downstairs to a cosy underground set of rooms.
On one side through an arch is a Coravin wonderland of wines, evidence that Trade is co run by Gearoid Devaney and Xavier Rousset, Director of Burgundy specialist importer Flint Wines and co-founder of Cabotte restaurant in the City, and Xavier Rousset owner of Marylebone’s Blandford Comptoir and Comptoir Cafe respectively
We had a few beers at the bar, keeping an eye out for any (chef) talent that might have been in, but were told that during the day not many chefs are in the house. They apparently turn up late evening after finishing in their restaurants to get a few drinks in and maybe some bar snacks. It’s open until 3 a.m.
One wall is made up of variously sized glass jars of mysterious colours and with odd things inside them. These are all newly-appointed head chef Anthony Raffo’s pickles and fermentations that are used in many of his dishes.
We didn’t have time for the full tasting menu and in any case, as we were guests, we weren’t obliged to have it. Instead we picked a few interesting-sounding dishes from the tersely worded menu.
For example, Dorset crab, sweetcorn doesn’t exactly tell you much but what can go wrong with such ingredients? As it turned out nothing, except I did crunch on a few bits of shell.
That apart, it was a small masterpiece of subtlety and intonation. The sweetcorn had been pureed and also charred then broken into lumps which looked like the discarded carapace of some sea creature.
The crab was excellent, it’s sweetness accentuated by the nori popcorn’s umami and a hint of chilli in that’chowder’.
S had the mackerel, a fish I used to catch in abundance off Hastings pier but never liked to eat. This had been hit with a blowtorch and dressed with sunflower seed butter.
This fattiness was a good foil to the fish, S reckoned, and he enjoyed the textural contrast of the oven-crisped kale that came with it.
Clever starters, without cleverness being the sole point, just flavours that were precise and a bit of wit to season. They set us up well for mains.I don’t eat a lot of meat these days, so sea bass was bang on for me.
Simply cooked, as fish should always be, it spoke for itself and sang of not being too long out of the sea. A cauliflower had been turned into a puree as well as a cous cous and showed we neglect this Cinderella veg far too much.
The puffed wild rice, while looking somewhat uncomfortably like insects, was another textural trick that worked well.
S has no meat issues, and he does love things like ox cheek, so he was immediately certain he wanted ox cheek, creamed mash, sour carrot. A chef can seldom go wrong with braised meat, especially when baby it’s cold outside.
Comfort food is an overused phrase for sure, but it still does sum up a genre of food really well.
The meat and the mash were first class, but what he really, really, liked and insisted that I try, was the carrot. It looked ordinary enough, but it was out of one of chef’s pickling jars and its sourness really was a revelation and just the thing to put up against his cheek.
I am not a dessert person, I like cheese so the idea of Tunworth cheese, raisin and puffed rice was an appealing one. Apparently, the chef has been doing this dish for over ten years using the Tunworth’camembert’ from where he grew up.
This was hands down my best dessert of 2019. It had so much contrast going on within it, but nothing clashed, it all jelled to perfection. Cheese, sweetness and crispiness – I really did linger over each bite to make the sensations last.
Dessert also wowed S who had caramel, miso, chocolate, meringue. The caramel was made from parsnip, bringing out the vegetable’s inherent sweetness. Add the magic of miso and smoked, grated meringue and you had a dish he was still on about the next day.
A lot of clubs are allowing in non -members for meals these days, it’s a good idea that must help with the finances as well as get new members too.
Trade is the best club diner I’ve tried so far, chef is out there on stage with Jools and a highly critical audience looking on and he’s definitely getting an encore.
TRADE members’ opening hours:
Monday-Saturday: 11am to 3am.
Non-member opening hours for table bookings are:
Monday – Friday 11am -3am and Saturday 5pm – 3am