Eating Out: A bit of a red herring

Lundum

119 Old Brompton Road, London SW7, 0171 373 7774. Lunch Mon-Sat 10am-5.30pm, dinner 6-11pm, Sunday brunch noon-4pm. Three-course set dinner, pounds 19.50. Service charge, 12.5 per cent

IT'S RARE that one visits a London restaurant without harbouring any preconceptions. Most new eateries are launched with such a PR fanfare that it's pretty hard to get to the door without having taken on board, however reluctantly, that the place is serving Pan-Pacific this, or Neo-Classical that, that the decor is by Clive Cliche or Dodi Doodler, in MDF and sand-blasted zinc, and that the waiters wear sackcloth, or Armani, or some such.

But every now and again a place slips through the net. The other day someone mentioned a restaurant called . They hadn't been there, but wondered if I had. I hadn't even heard of it. The only further information they could give me was that it was "apparently, London's only Danish restaurant". This immediately threw up a question I hadn't previously pondered: "What do Danes eat?" I racked my brains for a few minutes, and all I could come up with was herrings and bacon. And I wasn't even sure about the bacon.

Still, I'd forgive them anything for the herrings. I would be prepared to go a long way, even as far as SW1, in the hope of finding a really top-class rollmop. So I set off for , my girlfriend Marie and her mother Denise in tow, with a relatively open mind, my palate a blank canvas ready to be daubed with the fresh and flavoursome marks of Danish gastronomy.

We all liked the look of the place. I would go as far as to say that the venue ranks as one of the most charming small restaurants in south- west London. The entrance is discreet, except for a tell-tale plaque confirming 's claim to be "London's only Danish restaurant". It leads directly into a small but high-ceilinged dining-room plainly painted in a lovely bluebell mauve. The feeling is comfy-but-smart, casual-posh. And there is a particularly nice table - worth requesting, it would seat six - just inside the window, partitioned away from the rest of the dining room by a screen of glass and white-painted wood.

The most notable thing about the menu, and the first sign of trouble, was the glaring lack of herrings - an absence so surprising that I couldn't refrain from drawing it to the attention of our waiter. "We sometimes have them at lunchtime," he said. "But in the evenings our aim is to show that there is more to Danish nouvelle cuisine than herrings." This was done with a modest show of pride that was rather endearing.

So what do they have instead? Well, they have salmon. A whole section of the menu is devoted to it, with heavy hints that this is the speciality of the house, and ought to be tried. I asked if the salmon was wild, and was very surprised to be told, quite emphatically, that it was. Surprised, because wild salmon is pretty hard to get hold of at this time of year, and very pricey, and yet offers great tranches of it, grilled, for a mere pounds 8.50. Naturally, we all ordered salmon. And I'm afraid we were all disappointed. I probably did best, with a generous plate of gravadlax as a starter. But even this, a Scandinavian staple, was no better than adequate - too greasy, not enough salt, not enough pepper, too much sugar, just enough dill. And these, of course, are the only ingredients of gravadlax, besides the fish.

Denise had a trio of cold salmon as her main course, which included my gravadlax, alongside a pile of underseasoned (practically unseasoned) raw fish, which was called a tartare, and a few strips of smoked salmon, lame in both taste and texture. Marie had the grilled tranche for her main course. It was, like so much farmed fish, greasy and bland, but for a mildly muddy aftertaste. If these fish really were wild, I dread to think what ecological misfortune had rendered them so dull and flabby.

Marie had ordered a starter of "feta mousse". I could just about see the logic to this dish, as I remembered a statistic along the lines that Denmark produces more feta than Greece. (Apparently the Danes also make more mozzarella than the Italians, but hadn't thought to put pizza on the menu.) Danish feta isn't really feta at all, being made with cow's milk, not sheep's, and this was a bland and buttery affair, with none of the sheepy tang you would expect from Greek feta. All three of us had a go, but it didn't get finished.

Marie's mother had a crack at the "soupe a l'oignon". How this bistro classic ranks as "nouvelle Danish cuisine" I couldn't say. But to be honest it wouldn't have taken Gallic taste buds to discern the palate-deadening aftertaste of MSG-laden stock cube, and the acidic crunch of undercooked onions sliced too thick.

Not everything was this grim. Despite a viscous and suspect gravy, and overcooked potatoes, and red cabbage that was far too vinegary, my meatballs were absolutely delicious. And the puddings, in a rather irritating way, were outstanding: I had a delicious trio of chocolate mousses, and Denise had an outrageous dish of creme brulee, spread over a wide plate topped with two scoops of home-made vanilla ice-cream. Everything you could ever want from eggs, sugar, cream and vanilla pod on one plate.

Our evening was not an entirely negative experience. We liked the place and the staff, loved the puds, and certainly couldn't complain about the bill. On Thursday night the place was humming; it seems to have earned a loyal clientele. But wouldn't they, like me, prefer to see a serious overhaul of the menu, the return of the herring, and an end to salmonoid misery?

Hugh's series, 'Escape to River Cottage', is on Channel 4 tonight

WHAT'S ON THE WINE LIST

Richard Ehrlich's selection

De Bortoli, pounds 20.50

This wine list is mostly dreary and unimaginative, but I'd be happy to try this serviceable Yarra Chardonnay. The name is misspelled on the list (as De Bartoli)

Cannonau di Sardegna 1994, Sella e Mosca, pounds 18.50

Even with an ungenerous mark-up, this is one of the most interesting choices on the list under pounds 20. The producer makes some of the best cheap wines in Sardinia

Sandalford, pounds 26.50

This Cabernet would benefit from more bottle age, but the price is not too punishing. Sandalford uses fruit from several areas of Western Australia

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

music
Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce performs in front of a Feminist sign at the MTV VMAs 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has taken home the prize for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Paige and Scott Lowell in Queer as Folk (Season 5)
tvA batch of shows that 'wouldn't get past a US network' could give tofu sales an unexpected lift
Arts and Entertainment
books... but seller will be hoping for more
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone