Test Driving Bryn Williams at Somerset House - where the fruit and veg are the main stars

chicoryCharred chicory with sour onions, smoked ricotta and rapeseed oil dressing

So what do we need to know about Bryn Williams at Somerset House?

A regular on TV shows like Saturday Kitchen, Bryn trained under Marco Pierre White and Raymond Blanc and has been Chef Patron at popular North London restaurant Odette's for the past 10 years. Here, in his first central London restaurant, fruit and vegetables are the stars of the show.

Where is it?

The clue's in the name but, fair enough - Somerset House is a big building. If you've been to the Tom's Kitchen restaurant there before, it's taken over the space that it vacated.

If you need more directions, head straight through the courtyard (from Strand) to the South Wing overlooking the river. Enter through in the doors in the middle and the restaurant is off to the right. The nearest tubes are Temple and Covent Garden.

brynintOne of the three riverside dining rooms at Bryn Williams' restaurant at Somerset House

Where should we meet friends for a drink first?

We think that your best bet is the large standalone bar that's at the entrance to the restaurant. They have Staropramen on draught (from tanks) as well as a range of ciders and real ales.

The cocktail list is worth a go as it takes its lead from the kitchen. using fruit and vegetables as key ingredients. Our Rabbit on a Sidecar (£8.95) was a more refreshing take on the classic cocktail, replacing the cognac with carrot juice.

And where should we sit?

The restaurant is divided into three distinct dining rooms - our personal preference is the furthest one in - closest to the kitchen. There are three booth tables here up at the window with cracking views over the Thames.

It's worth pointing out that the seating area in all three sections has been elevated, giving proper river views that weren't possible before.

cauliflowerCauliflower with golden raisins, salted grapes and capers

So, what's the food like?

First, you'll have to get to grips with the menu. If you recall Bruno Loubet's Grain Store - this takes a similar approach, so while there may be meat or fish in the dishes, the focus is first given to the main vegetable or fruit ingredients.

It's split into five sections - for the table (get the soda bread from this section with whipped butter - it's AMAZING - £3.25), starters, spring salads, mains and then roots, tubers and lettuce.

We didn't have to read the menu to know wild garlic was on it, we could small it immediately - maybe Grade I buildings don't have brilliant ventilation systems - but instead we went for compressed watermelon on an avocado puree with Dorset crab and samphire (£11.25), a dish as beautiful as it was delicious.

Pickled radishes with black garlic, apple puree and pork belly (£9.50) was great too - but the dish that really stood out in this section was the charred chicory with sour onions, smoked ricotta and rapeseed oil dressing (£7.50).

As committed carnivores, we don't often choose vegetarian main courses, but the description of the roast cauliflower with golden raisins, capers, soft polenta and salted grapes (£16) compelled us to order it and it was not only one of the best things we've eaten in ages, but also an incredibly reasonably-priced dish too, particularly given the huge bowl of Parmesan-covered polenta that came with it.

While it is intended to go specifically with the cauliflower, in a reference to cauliflower cheese, we really think the polenta should be available to all as a side. It's wonderful - as were the perfectly triple-cooked chips (which we've found often don't taste triple cooked - but defintiely did here).  

For dessert, a short list ranges in price from £7 to £14 for a British cheeseboard. A bay leaf panna cotta with blackberries, hazelnuts and lime curd was wonderful - but it lost out - just - to the baked vanilla cheesecake with passionfruit ice-cream and pineapple.

pannacottaBay leaf pannacotta with blackberries, lemon curd and rapeseed oil

How about drinks?

We've mentioned the cocktails and the beer - but the short wine list is very reasonable too, starting at £23 a bottle for a Trebbiano (white) or Sangiovese (red). Even the Jeio Prosecco is pretty reasonable at £36.

Overall thoughts

Embarassingly, we haven't been to Odette's during Bryn's tenure, but we may have to rectify that following our lunch at his Somerset House venue. It's easy to pay lip service to the growing trend for plant-focused menus - it's another thing to make the end result genuinely inventive and delicious.

Oh, and the gorgeous setting doesn't hurt either.

Hot Dinners were invited to Bryn Williams at Somerset House. Prices are correct at the time of writing. 


More about Bryn Williams at Somerset House

Where is it? Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 1LA

When does it open? Opening hours are Mon – Sat 10am-4pm and 6pm to 10pm and Sunday 10am-4pm. The bar is open all day from 10am to 10pm.

How to book: Call 020 7845 4646 or email reservations@bryn-somsersethouse.co.uk

Find out more: Visit their website or follow them on Twitter @bwsomersethouse