86 Fulham Road, London, SW3 6HR www.86restaurant.co.uk

Eighty-Six is a French restaurant located on the Fulham Road, replacing the incongruous Cactus Blue. The battle for business on this

South Kensington strip is fierce and unrelenting with failure to make an impact often proving to be fatal, so it’s important to get a good staff in place. Fortunately for Eighty-Six, the recent acquisition of Simon Levy from Koffman’s at The Berkeley, was a smart move.

Perhaps the focus on bringing in the right chef has hindered the creativity over the branding. Eighty-Six is not just the name, it’s also the address on the Fulham Road. Imagine a caramel magnum on a mirror and you’re on the right tracks to the colour scheme of black, gold and shiny. The ground floor is dominated by a large bar with stacks of labels that you would certainly want in your collection. Though the low lighting covers up any noticeable décor highlights. It’s dark, sophisticated and a little mysterious.

Although not French, Levy had worked with one of the very best Frenchman in Chef Koffman, resulting in the tastes of France dominating his compendious menu with starters containing snails, Foie Gras and truffles. The prices are lofty rather than competitive. There’s no doubting the pedigree or indeed the execution of the chef, though some eyes will wander to competing venues for a better deal.

The last time I ate snails my passengers almost passed out in my car, so I resisted the incredible sounding macaroni cheese, bacon, snails, garlic croutons. Instead I began with Foie Gras, duck rillette, blood orange marmalade. I’m developing a good CV as far as Foie Gras goes and this was one of the top efforts. The marmalade cut through the grease and freshened the mouth from the deeply rich and creamy Foie Gras. Matched well, sealed perfectly and presented beautifully.

Main was Pyrenees Lamb, crushed peas, majoram and sweetbreads. No complaints with the lamb; soft, tender, slightly pink and ripping apart from the slightest touch of cutlery. The peas brought Spring to the plate, whilst the sweetbreads were accompanied with a healthy dollop of rich and creamy truffle pureee, topped with a forkful of purple sprouting broccoli. There were lot of flavours involved that bonded well without losing their identities.

My dinner guest, Mr Schi, excels in banter but lacks punctuality. I’d arranged for my best friend, Novena, to join us after dinner yet with the evening’s schedule being disrupted she arrived towards the end of main course. The ‘unexpected guest’ is always a nice test to throw at a restaurant, one that Eighty-Six passed with flying colours.

The dessert menu was the least captivating of the three courses and I didn’t feel the anticipation of arrival I had gone through with the previous dishes. I’d settled on ice berries with white chocolate, which if I was to return to the restaurant, I shall not repeat order.

In these parts most average Joes are expecting to bump into a bloody splendid chap with four surnames, a quiff brushed like a pony’s arse-flicker, absolutely no sense of humility and the ability to name drop more than will.i.am and Tom Jones put together. I won’t lie; you may see one or two in Eighty-Six that would fit the description. However the company you keep makes the night a success along with the right touches here and there from your surroundings. I definitely had good company and Eighty-Six provided the suitable polishing touches. I get the impression that the restaurant is still trying to find its true identity. With so much stark competition in the area, it’s certainly not the quality of the cooking that may hinder the chances for Eighty-Six.