As a general rule I haven't heard, seen or been, but recently I have started exploring the capital's new ventures - eating in some, failing to get tables in many - where the swell (and swelling) party is made up of professional people with more money than time, and others from restaurant high society with a great deal of both.
First there was the Aubergine, in Chelsea, where my colleague John Wells ate the best meal he has ever had in London, and where the phone is usually engaged and the tables booked weeks in advance. Then there was Avenue W11, in Notting Hill, which I tried on the off-chance on a rainy Monday evening.
It was full, so I can't report on the food, but the decor is striking: hewn-rock effect, hessian table cloths with South American borders, all (apart from the latter) in understated light brown, fawn and stone colours.
Then last week, I finally got to sit down. To avoid disappointment I had booked a table at Wild World, a new restaurant on the Hammersmith/Chiswick border, a week in advance. Earlier in the year I'd heard a whisper involving chefs and owners from all the 'you-absolutely-must-go' eateries in London and this apparently was it. My early booking turned out to be an unnecessary precaution: the six tables upstairs were empty and downstairs, in the main dining room, there were only a few taken. But then, of course, we were eating ridiculously early (8.15pm) and were miles from the Portobello Road.
In fact, the chef is Mark Broadbent who has worked in a number of the foodie-chat London restaurants - 192 in Notting Hill and the Fire Station in Waterloo - doing a brief stint at the nearby, much admired Brackenbury before coming here. And the two owners used to be managers at Julie's in Holland Park, fashionable when Britt Eckland was a young woman. For this venture they have chosen the Nineties theme of 'one world'.
A quick glance at the menu immediately establishes where the Wild World is coming from. No fewer than eight countries or cuis-ines are alluded to, sometimes several in one dish, as in the Spanish charcuterie, olives and crostini. As a first course my companion chose scallops with Thai spicy cabbage salad and black beans, while I went for the Palestine salad - dandelion and white truffle oil - which my companion correctly decoded as a PC reference to Jerusalem artichokes.
With our main courses, we hit a few more international targets. She had lamb with colcannon, rosemary and thyme jus, and I had duck with turnip rosti and juniper berries. There were also goat's curd borek, tabbouleh and babaganouj (aubergine, apparently), and grey mullet, chickpeas, chorizo and gemolata.
What my companion confidently told me was world music was coming from the speakers as we were shown from the bar into the spacious dining room. The walls are washed with a yellow-earth colour, the floor is yellow pine and the woodwork, tables and chairs are painted turquoise blue. The lighting is sculptural: arching metal lupins with a bulb beneath every 'petal'. At the table opposite, three girls were talking about boys. 'Robert works out in the gym. He's massive.' In the corner, three boys, dressed in shades of black, were also, I suspect, talking about boys. Behind us chat about 'whatever I do marketing-wise' later lapsed into a bout of 'deconstructing'.
There was also an older party; they were behind a pillar and speaking quietly.
My companion found her first course exceptional. Each scallop came on a tiny shell and was decorated with a single coriander leaf. The central mound of Thai cabbage and beans was crunchy, spicy and very delicious. My chargrilled Jerusalem artichokes were interestingly soft and chewy at the same time. The dish combined strong single tastes into a pleasing whole.
When our main courses arrived they looked almost identical. Both were perfect circles in the middle of the plate: slices of meat and a small joint, resting on a cushion of vegetables. My companion felt her meal was becoming too brown. The wonderful Thai cabbage had been, and, apart from the hint of red in her rare lamb, so was this. The colcannon - a cabbage and potato mix - came as a fried brown pattie. All good, but brown. I found my duck a bit tough, but then it was wild and must have flapped its wings quite a bit before landing on my plate.
The service throughout was delightful - unobtrusive but attentive. At one point, when we were in full work-moan mode, I had complained about something making me sick. Before I knew it the waiter was there asking solicitously, though not obsequiously, whether there was anything wrong with my meal.
The chef's star quality came out again with the apple and blackberry crumble tart which my companion ordered. Although she didn't love it, having been 'spoilt by the exotic beauty' of her first course, she could see its quali-ties. The pastry was light and crumbly, the apple chunks had retained their integrity and had not become an unsightly mush with the blackberries.
I had a plate of cheese, a choice I regretted once I saw her pudding.
The one problem we encountered with this restaurant was with the loos. There is no obvious way of distinguishing the men's from the women's, and both of us had trouble finding our way back to the dining room.
Our meal for two, with a bottle of Medoc at pounds 14.50, coffees and mineral water, came to pounds 61 excluding service, but including pounds 1 for a basket of shop-bought bread, which we felt might have been absorbed.Reuse content