There are certain elements of ‘fine dining’ that make the ‘experience’ somewhat nauseating. The first is of course the phrase ‘fine dining’ and the second is that eating is these days considered an experience, rather than a social, a jolly, or a ritual that necessitates survival.
There are many, many more irritating elements: creative menus, for example, or the contemporary obsession with using seasonal ingredients. (The latter has had an obscure influence on menus as of late – when did pureed beetroot become acceptable for anyone beyond the age of two?) And then of course – and I fear the following may render me callous and cruel in the your eyes – the fact that Doing Good has somehow become married to the whole ‘experience:’ it is essential that your chicken, like the Saudi princes, has been held in luxurious surroundings and that your beetroot was grown in a field only a short bicycle ride away (food miles) before it reached the restaurant in order to be bastardised by liquidation. Everything has become so hello birds, hello sky, that the concept of sitting down and eating delicious food and then carrying on with the day until the next mealtime has been cast into the distant past.
Enter The Other Naughty Piglet. The restaurant, in London Victoria, sits on the second floor, mezzanine-style, of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Other Palace Theatre. There is a distinctive village hall feel about the space, particularly since the loos are shared with the theatre (sorry to mention them but it adds to the general oddity). Completely bizarrely, after walking through the theatre lobby, guests walk up a stonking great eyesore of a marble staircase that is so misplaced, it’s as if it survived the blitz and the restaurant was built around it because it could not and would not be moved. The Other Naughty Piglet is the sister restaurant of the equally coyly named Naughty Piglets in Brixton, set up by a husband-wife duo Adam Byatt (former head chef at Clapham’s Trinity restaurant) and Margaux Aubry, which has received rave reviews from those patient enough to look beyond its ridiculous name.
Everything about The Other Naughty Piglet is, on paper, ticking the boxes of a Nauseating Fine Dining Experience as listed above. The menus confess that they are both ‘creative’ and ‘seasonal’ – actually, worse still, the menus claim to ‘evolve with the seasons,’ which doesn’t bode well for them if the current rates of global warming continue. The choices are served on ‘sharing platters’ – so do not darken the doors with someone with whom you are on less than very friendly terms. The form is tapas-meets-tasting-menu, as each option is brought out, one after the other, and presented with rather a lot of description.
All that said, the food is completely exquisite. Burrata, black olives and basil, for example, turned out to be a surprisingly delicious and unusual pairing of tastes and textures (the burrata sat on a crunchy olive tapenade). The (home-made, natch) black pudding with soy pickled mushrooms, chestnuts and celeriac was one of the most delicious things I have eaten in recent times, the beef short rib was so tender that it practically melted. The honeycomb ice-cream, chocolate mousse and salted caramel was a disassembled crunchie bar that rendered all other puddings perfectly pointless. The menu and the concept is try-hard, but the food is considered, and cooked absolutely brilliantly. So if you can stomach the hello birds, hello sky ‘vibes,’ you’ll find The Other Naughty Piglet to be a fine dining experience after all.
The Other Naughty Piglet is now open. Find out more here