Bull market

The pioneer of Modern British goes up West

The American gastronome, MK Fisher, professed an aversion to restaurants. If she had to take someone out to eat, she liked to arrange the menu and wine with the restaurateur in advance, tip the waiters before the meal began, and have the bill sent to her home after it had finished. This, perhaps, is taking things too far, but it is true that the dishes which lodge in your mind tend to be the ones you have to share or order in advance. At Stephen Bull's Blandford Street restaurant, in London's Marylebone, it is worth waiting 15 minutes for the excellent, hot pineapple fondant.

Marco Pierre White recently boasted that there would soon be no room for the small fry of the restaurant world: he and Terence Conran will have carved up London between them. Stephen Bull, you can be sure, would never say such a thing. Everything about his restaurants is subtle and graceful; they're cool, but not too cool.

Yet Bull, too, is expanding. In addition to Blandford Street and his Smithfield place, he has just acquired his first restaurant in the heart of the West End.

Although an undoubted pioneer of what has come to be known as "Modern British cooking", Bull insisted to me on the Englishness of his food. He does, indeed, borrow very little from non-European cuisines, but his ingredients don't seem especially British, and his smoothness feels very French - like David Hume, of whom it was said, he wrote English like a Frenchman.

The new Stephen Bull restaurant - in Upper St. Martin's Lane, a few doors from Stringfellows - continues in the style of the other two, with a discreet sign outside and an inscrutably contemporary interior. The West End, however, does not come cheap, and the new place has something of a shoe-box feel. Bull's designers have done their best: a simple, white interior is broken by leather banquette-thingies running up the wall to the ceiling. "It's like Sleeper," my companion said, "but without the orgasmatron."

Our meal did not reach the heights of a lunch I had recently at Blandford Street, though it had its moments. Beginning, in Hegelian fashion, at the end, the desserts were the weakest point of the menu, principally because they made no gesture to seasonability: rum junket and cinnamon biscuits, creamed sultana and ginger pudding, warm apple sable, and blue cheese and walnut feuillete, all gave the impression that no one knew winter was over (although recent weather would support that view). Of the desserts we chose, the semolina and lemon curd cake with plum compote was the best.

The two first courses, on the other hand, were definite highs. My sister's summer vegetable salad - various leaves, broad beans, warm potatoes, slivers of courgette and turnip with a minty dressing - tasted, as the best things can, like a happy accident. Each element in a vaguely Middle-Eastern plate of starters, including tzatziki, spinach and feta strudel, and artichoke and tomato salad, tasted perfect, and constituted a lovingly prepared dish.

The middle courses, however, were of contrasting merit. Fillets of red mullet and sardines, both crisply fried, came on a stodgy tagliatelli salad. But a slow-baked shoulder of lamb came with rich juices and fell apart on my fork.

The wine list at Blandford Street is arranged by region, but at St Martin's Lane it is configured by style, and has helpful descriptions. Can it be that Stephen Bull believes the private practitioners of Harley Street know their wines better than the media managers of the West End? It was hard to read much from the diners around us, but they included Janet Street- Porter and a family with a nearly anorexic girl - a reminder of the downside of our foodie culture.

Our bill for two was pounds 80. A cheaper pre-theatre menu is available from 5.45pm-7pm

Stephen Bull, 12 Upper St Martin's Lane, London WC2 (0171-379 7811), Amex, Mastercard, Visa, wheelchair access; closed Saturday lunch and all day Sunday

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
A boy holds a chick during the Russian National Agricultural Exhibition Golden Autumn 2014 in Moscow on October 9, 2014.
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

    £25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

    Recruitment Genius: General Processor

    £7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

    Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

    £18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

    Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

    £14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

    What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

    Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
    The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

    Setting in motion the Internet of Things

    British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
    Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

    Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

    Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
    Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

    Cult competition The Moth goes global

    The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
    Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

    Pakistani women come out fighting

    Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
    Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

    Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

    The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
    LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

    Education: LGBT History Month

    Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
    11 best gel eyeliners

    Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

    Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

    After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot