www.livrestaurant.co.uk 18-22 Holbein Place, Belgravia, SW1W8NL
The last time I was in Sloane Square all the men were driving Golf GTis and all the women wore Alice bands and those puffy body warmer things. As you can guess, it was a long time ago.
Today it’s still the same really. Fashions have changed but the same kind of people still live here. Elegant, well-born, wealthy.
And here is Liv, very much a locals’ restaurant. A place to come to regularly.It’s just around the corner from carpenter to the gentry David Linley’s shop, as well as other boutique spots that make you wonder if some wag hasn’t added a few zeros to the items’ price tickets just for a laugh.
Liv is a restaurant for this area. All light and bright with marble topped tables, plus tasteful fabrics and cheerful colours, And price wise, well let’s just say it’s not cheap but it’s not going to bother the locals.
Mark Jarvis oversees the cooking, he of Anglo, St Leonards and trade fame I’ve eaten in the latter, it was wonderful, but I wonder if that’s the kind of cooking this area wants? I suspect Jarvis wondered too, which is why this cooking is a bit different.
Liv is more than a restaurant, it’s an all-day place. We’ve come for lunch, I don’t even know what brunch is anymore. Does it have to include eggs?
Obviously we’re firmly encouraged to do the scan thing on the NHS Covid app, even though my suspicion is that it’s a waste of time, especially as my wife’s iPhone can’t even run the app as it’s too old.
What kind of useful app is one that locks out people who don’t want, or can’t afford, the latest tech?.
We also spray our hands with the dinky foam hand sanitiser on each table, an action almost reflexive now, Soon there will be hand sanitisers in every salt and pepper rack and we won’t even blink.
Olives and nuts go down fast and two breads even faster. The focaccia is soft and billowy but slightly too oily, I find myself greasing up everything that I am wearing in moments, my dry cleaner won’t be pleased.
From a short-ish a la carte menu I go for Shorthorn rib tartare. This is a stripped down version of the classic without the
multitude of ingredients that are usually included.The menu tells me the crucial egg has been soy-cured, but I can’t detect the soy.
The meat is excellent, it doesn’t need too much extra competition, but the mustard could do with backing off a bit, it’s slightly overpowering.
I do like the toasted brioche beneath and the thin slices of pear. A nice touch that and so is the blizzard of chives cut into micro rings on top.
Prawn dumplings, or gyoza if you prefer, have their skins strained to Schwarzenegger’s T Shirt bursting with plump prawns. These are rather good, but it’s the mushroom broth that actually stars in this show.
Remarkably deeply-flavoured, it’s one of those broths I wish I could take a straw to. Baby leeks are elegantly thin, like the locals.
We’ve both gone fish for main, it seems a better lunchtime choice and I’m sure that’s also how many of the people round here feel.
I get a slice of halibut as white as fresh snow. It’s a tidy bit of fish, cooked just right for my tastes; I like my white fish the way I like my Brexit supporters – dealt with firmly, but not always battered.
On top is lovely luminous samphire, crisp and briny, underneath are crushed potatoes and crab. Although unadvertised on the menu, the potatoes exceed the crab by quite some margin.
If I had known that in advance I would not have ordered the fries. Now I just look greedy. Still they do help mop a rather fine jus.
P is on sea bream, potato and fennel gratin, tarragon sabayon. Reports come across the table that the skin is as crispy as it should be with the flesh moist and perfect.
I try a bit of the gratin, I think it needs a bit more fennel, but I do like fennel and I know from experience it can lose flavour when cooked anything but briefly. I enjoy it best sliced raw and just massaged with a bit of salt.
The tarragon sabayon is good old school stuff, by which I mean rather delicious.
Desserts I am a bit disappointed by. My apple parfait, granny smith sorbet and spiced tuille features something I would not have called a sorbet at all; it is creamy and not at all icy, while the parfait is far from perfect. The tuille is bit of a tooth-breaker.
Lemon curd tart, brown sugar meringue is okay, the pastry at the bottom is very hard and P abandoned attempts to break it and scraped off the filling, which was decent enough.
We both got the impression desserts were not a Liv speciality.
But no matter, we’d enjoyed the rest. Cool and unpretentious, but still slightly fancy, cooking of a kind that is perfectly suited to the area’s tastes; this isn’t Hoxton after all.
The space is attractive, the spacing (Covid) is done without drawing attention to itself and the staff under their masks, are friendly and keen.
Oh and there are even some tables outside, which could become crucial when the Gov panics again.