Victoria Purcell goes all gooey inside over melt-in-the-mouth oxtail croquettes and a celebrity chef encounter at The Ninth in Fitzrovia…
There’s something about Charlotte Street in Fitzrovia. It has a very European feel about it, with restaurants and cafes lining the street, many with cute little terraces out front.
I guess it’s what you want Soho to look like, once you’ve reached that age where stumbling out of nightclubs becomes the exception rather than the rule (RIP my youth).
Here you find The Ninth, Jun Tanaka’s beautiful French-Mediterranean restaurant. You’ll likely know Tanaka from TV cookery chat shows like Saturday Kitchen, so when he popped down to the restaurant to say hello to his wife and friends as they were dining, I felt a little star struck. Imagine my face then, when he popped over to my table to say hello at the end of our meal.
‘I’ve seen you on the tele with that James Martin,’ I said, cool as a cucumber. Followed by, ‘It’s quite unusual to see celebrity chefs in their restaurants, isn’t it?’
Tanaka frowned. ‘I’m not a celebrity chef,’ he replied, quickly recovering his friendly smile. ‘Those TV shows are just good for the brand, you know?’
The menu, to me, is perfect: Light, contemporary, adventurous and designed for sharing, so you can over-order without judgement
Forgive me, Jun, I don’t get out much and I’ve had half a bottle of Viognier, I thought as my boyfriend squirmed in his seat across from me, occasionally raising his eyebrows as I blathered on. And on.
The Ninth, about three years in the making, is Tanaka’s baby. He’s there, sweating it out in the kitchen (we visited during the heatwave), creating beautiful food. He’s also very affable, visiting tables out on the floor once the hard graft is over.
The menu, to me, is perfect. Anchored in his staple French-Mediterranean style, the dishes are light, contemporary, adventurous and designed for sharing, so you can over-order without judgement.
Take, for example the razor clam ceviche. Excuse me while I die and go to heaven. Served up in razor clam shells, it’s light, delicate and delicious.
We ordered two divine oxtail croquettes, a fabulous burrata with beetroot, pickled cherries and walnuts, pan-fried gnocchi with peas, broad beans and smoked bacon (not my favourite, but gnocchi has always confused me – potato or pasta?) and, the pièce de résistance; the lamb en croûte.
Here, Tanaka’s years working with the likes of Michel Roux Jr, Marco Pierre White and Eric Chavot shone through in a classically French dish that was both bold and delicate, with lamb prepared two ways and wrapped in a thin layer of courgette and pastry before being baked to pink perfection and served with a killer lamb jus.
The pièce de résistance was the lamb en croûte
We skipped dessert, as neither of us are particularly sweet-toothed (and shockingly partial to the sourdough bread with Bordier butter that we ordered while pondering the menu), but if pushed I’d have probably managed to squeeze in the Tarte Tatin with rosemary ice cream.
The Ninth is a great little restaurant. The vibe is just right – relaxed but sophisticated – the decor is on point with exposed brickwork, copper, leather banquettes and soft lighting, the staff are swift, sweet and knowledgeable, and the food is faultless.
And with the bi-fold windows open onto the little street-side terrace on a warm summer’s evening, it’s all rather intoxicating. I can’t wait to return.
22 Charlotte Street, Fitzrovia W1T 2NB; theninthlondon.com