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December 9, 2013

Review: Belgravia's Pont St

By Neharika Padala

pont st dinner tableRecently opened at luxurious west London hotel Belgraves, Pont St is a contemporary seafood restaurant run by one of Britain’s youngest female executive chefs, Sophie Michell.

Elite Traveler stops by at the venue and is treated to an evening of exquisite food, attentive service and a touch of New York bohemia in one of London’s most fashionable streets.

There’s nothing quite like looking at a menu for a restaurant you’re to dine at that very evening and knowing you’re going to be spoilt for choice.

This was exactly my feeling as I sat at my desk, hours before my dinner date at Pont St, my mouth already watering at the promise of seafood bursting with flavors.

When I arrive at Belgraves, A Thompson Hotel which houses Pont St, some hours later, my expectations are high. After all, this is a restaurant that is run by a chef who has worked in Michelin-starred kitchens, in addition to being a celebrity cook for the likes of Claudia Schiffer. At just 31, Michell seems beyond her years.

As we enter the restaurant, our waiter for the night – Julian – welcomes us and directs us to the best table in the venue, before offering us a glass of Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin brut champagne to sip on while we look through the menu.

A few minutes later we’re treated to a small plate of aged parmesan with truffle honey, which we’re told is “one of Sophie’s specials”. Enjoyed with olive and wholemeal bread, it is exquisite.

At this point, the chef herself approaches our table and welcomes us to the restaurant. Having started her culinary career when she was just a teenager, Michell has worked as a private chef for celebrities, made numerous TV appearances and published several books. Her latest venture, Pont St, has made her one of the youngest female executive chefs in Britain.

To start, we select three small plates from the menu: the salt and pepper squid with kaffir lime, lemongrass and sweet red chilli (£11.50), the glazed pork belly with honey and fennel slaw (£11.50), and tuna flavored with soy, wasabi, sesame and tobiko (£14.50).

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Our waiter pairs the dishes with the 2011 Loredona Pinot Grigio from California, a crisp, fruity wine, which complements them well.

pork belly_My guest and I are blown away by the oriental-style salt and pepper squid, which is lightly battered and served with chilli sauce that has a slight kick. We agree that it is arguably the best squid we’ve ever had.

Meanwhile, the raw tuna – which is served chilled – is extremely fresh and boasts amazing flavors; soy sauce is present yet not at all overpowering. Delicious.

I wouldn’t usually go for pork belly but as it comes highly recommended from Julian, I am happy to partake. When it arrives, I am impressed by the beautiful presentation – served in small squares on a wooden slate, it is perfect for these sharing plates. As soon as my companion and I have each devoured one of the squares, we nod in agreement at how tasty it is.

For mains, I opt for the chargrilled king prawns (£22.50), which I have had my eye on since looking at the menu earlier in the day, while my guest goes for the fish of the day, turbot. Our attentive waiter pairs both of our dishes with a glass of the beautifully light and refreshing 2011 Chablis, Domaine des Marronniers.

Served with garlic butter, herbs and lemon, the juicy prawns are full of flavor and are as delicious, if not more so, than I hoped.

Meanwhile, my guest’s turbot is delicate, flavorsome and melts in the mouth. Served with samphire and oysters from the Essex coast, he describes it as “seafood on a plate”.

We share truffle mash (£6.50) and steamed broccoli with hollandaise (£5) on recommendation from the waiter, and find that both are extremely tasty and complement our main dishes well.

Although neither of us can manage to squeeze in our own dessert, Julian insists we cannot leave without trying the ‘naughty bits’, which consist of gold absinthe truffles, dark chocolate nuggets and flower scented marshmallows (£5.50).

We particularly enjoy the raspberry flavors and shock of the absinthe, but it is the ‘floating islands’ dessert (£6.50) that steals our heart. An incredibly inviting light, panna cotta-style dessert with maple syrup, custard, pink praline and violets, the dish marks the perfect end to the evening, which has been full of delicious food, excellent service, and a very comforting atmosphere.

Pont St is now offering a Sunday brunch menu, available every Sunday from 12-6pm.

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