Fallow, 2 St James's Market, St. James's, London SW1Y 4RP
Fallow: You can't escape theatre in the West End- and sometimes, that's nice
Aesthetically, it’s Frasier on the set of Sex and the City. Fitting of the West End, it’s not just the kitchen that provides a sense of theatre, either. Foursomes of mildly villainous-looking young men in black turtlenecks, double-parked and cheers'ing to yet another hostile takeover. A B-stock Kat from Eastenders tearing into her browbeaten partner over something some colleague of hers said earlier that day. A family joyously devouring a slew of small plates- their toddler gumming a piece of rye bread, wide-eyed and in awe of the gleaming decor. In between, there are scenes of tender intimacy of couples over a single course; the unspoken tussle between current hunger and the one to come, so to speak.
Nestled in a booth, across marbled tabletops with what seem to be globules of dripped solder hanging from the ceilings, we’re doled out the menu. At a glance, the menu is suspiciously busy. Oh, ye of little faith.
A point of pop-culture fascination, the corn ‘ribs’ are ordered unanimously. They emanate the scent of popcorn that saturates cinema lobbies. With a burst of fresh lime, they’re reminiscent of those Doritos that have only begun to return to market (praise the Lord). Sometimes the mainstream is a good place to paddle, even if you don't fancy bathing. The mackerel ceviche is an unmitigated success- brawny chunks lightly torched, pooled in lemon and chilli, it's pure coastal morning sun.
The pizzetta-style bread sprawling with a duvet of molten Tunworth and jammy onions, so intertwined that they sluice off together with a kind of treadmill effect, you really just end up eating the thing in one prolonged bite. Aside from a really light dough, there's a firm depth of chilli heat humming throughout to boot.
The smoked beef ribs are a thing of Flintstones-grade gratification. Three absolute weapons that completely fall apart with the introduction of gravity and a spoon. The smoke is light, the succulence near quenching and the sort of sustenance your body yells for after conducting a successful raid.
‘Nose to tail’ is another estuary from the mainstream that I’m happy to wade in, all day long. A devilled lamb tongue that’s incredibly tender, topped generously with panko and chive, the plate mirrored in jus. A myrtle dollop of bracing gherkin ketchup that has even the dismembered muscle puckering. It grabs you by the scruff of the neck and lays one on you without shame.
The ‘Fallow tartar’ thwacks with mustard upfront but maintains balance. Helped along by two tactically deployed dots of black garlic emulsion, it’s all piled onto thick rye crackers studded with a ying-yang of black and white sesame seed. The portion is masterfully curated, initiating a micro-tantrum that sees me stamping my foot like a brat because it’s not served by-the-trough.
Whipped cod's roe is an undisputed delight, as I’m sure you’ll agree, but the flirt next door is now whipped salmon belly. It turns up on your doorstep biting its lip and winking toward a marrowbone brioche. A touch sweet, it’s a fatty, steaming cumulus that allows you to scoop the bone in which the salmon is served, clean enough to give the KP a break.
Boulangère potatoes echo another trend, by all accounts spearheaded by Quality Chop House with their confit pressed potatoes. Resembling split woodgrain, the deep-fried crust gives way to the fudgy, stock-imbued striations of spuds. They’re a touch overdone, but big deal- we persevere. We're urged to try the confit cabbage, black garlic and chestnut. An unctuous novelette mounded with a scrim of crisp shredded outer leaves and drifts of chestnut- it's of course a delicious air-punch in the name of fat and greens, but at what cost? (£14)
Fallow bestowed one of the best desserts of this year upon my thighs this night. The technical skill and execution, Quantum Leapt me back to Birch Mk.1, the tarts of which I thought we'd lost forever. Tarts that would give Paul Hollywood the urge to kill again. Dulce Leche meets the innards of a crème brûlée that cuts cleanly- gently slumping under the spoon as it does so, like something out of a mindfulness app. I resent sharing at the best of times and unfortunately, I’m currently having one of them.
Soft serve is a further trend that I’ve been happy to lean into since it came back, after years of the machines being mysteriously out of order in Pizza Hut throughout my childhood. Wilsons in Bristol infused theirs with meadowsweet, Forza went with a chocolate and mint swirl and Radio Delicious collaborated with Morley's for a chicken crackling and pimento pepper vanilla back in July. I missed this last one and don’t exactly like myself for it.
Sourdough is Fallow’s iteration, with a syrup reminiscent of the yeast caramel that glazes the ‘loop-closing’ ice cream sandwich, on the journey that is Silo’s tasting menu. Whisper-thin webs of sourdough being plunged around the coil of ice cream, a muddle of chocolate chips and hazelnuts beneath, it's under-promised and over-delivered.
Lastly, the ‘chocolate crunch’ is a puck of warm chocolate ganache with a praline-like base which, altogether, is a 70/30 cross of tiffin and Daim; that heavy hit of cocoa that melts into candied shrapnel. The coffee ice cream issues that bitter slap rolling into sweetness- it’s a self-contained frozen affogato that could be a separate event entirely if it wanted to. Getting up to leave, I see Ally McBeal and her firm on the opposite table are having the Chelsea tart. A few are just sitting there wide-eyed and mouthing swear words, with the rest clamouring over how good the thing is.
Self-described as 'creative cooking, sustainable thinking' Fallow are worth bearing the throngs of people- even those people that are walking in front of you and stop dead all of a sudden like nobody else is behind them, or even exists. Along with their dairy cow, bacon cheeseburger and plant burger, the menu is arguably a crowd-pleaser, but so what? This is the West End after all and there's a Pizza Express exactly every 50 yards as it is.