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
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Solar PV Designer

    £25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £26,000

    £14000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to continued success, this ...

    Recruitment Genius: Trainee Design Consultant - Kitchens & Interiors

    £12000 - £14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This bespoke furniture and inte...

    Recruitment Genius: Solar PV Surveyor

    £25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

    Day In a Page

    A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

    A Very British Coup, part two

    New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
    What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

    What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

    Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
    Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

    Are you a 50-center?

    Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
    The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

    Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

    The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
    Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

    Hollywood's new diet trends

    Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
    6 best recipe files

    6 best recipe files

    Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
    Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

    Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

    Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

    I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
    Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

    Margaret Atwood on climate change

    The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

    What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
    Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

    The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

    Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
    Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

    Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

    The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
    Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

    Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

    The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
    Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

    Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

    Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works