Bluebird Dining Room, London, SW3

The great British food revival continues apace with the opening of the Bluebird Dining Room - just make sure you know your oggies from your parkins
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Indy Lifestyle Online

First, we had to learn about bavarois, jus, mousseline, ballotine, millefeuille and magret. Then we had to come to grips with carpaccio, agnolotti, sformato, scottadito and tiramisu. Just when that lot had sunk in, we had to get our mouths around tom yam goong, mee krob, ma hor and gaeng musaman.

First, we had to learn about bavarois, jus, mousseline, ballotine, millefeuille and magret. Then we had to come to grips with carpaccio, agnolotti, sformato, scottadito and tiramisu. Just when that lot had sunk in, we had to get our mouths around tom yam goong, mee krob, ma hor and gaeng musaman.

Now, as yet another exotic cuisine finds favour in Britain, it is time to un-Thai our tongues and learn a whole new culinary language, full of baffling and mysterious terms such as oggies, parkins, bloaters and skuets.

There have been numerous attempts to reclaim British cooking, but they have generally bowed under the weight of our love for France and the Mediterranean. The current generation of diners may know that the finest truffles are from Alba, the most succulent jamon is from Spanish Iberian pigs, and the silkiest foie gras is brought over from Gascony, but to them a Grigson is a Sophie and not a Jane. And how many of them have tasted Dorset Blue lobster, Devonshire cockles, Welsh salt-marsh lamb, Tobermory scallops or West Mersea oysters?

Now they can, at the Bluebird Dining Room. Since taking over what was an exclusive private-club dining-room in Sir Terence Conran's Bluebird complex, the kinetic Tom Conran has come over all British.

Recently opened to the hoi polloi, the conservatory- style room has been transformed into a confident, contemporary, post-bling space in which comfortably padded tweedy banquettes, a naïve paper-hung chandelier, an illuminated lobster tank and framed Paul Slater caricatures all seem perfectly natural companions.

In the kitchen is the comfortably padded form of Lancastrian chef Mark Broadbent, whom I have happily followed around town since he was cooking Mediterranean at The Oak in Westbourne Grove. Here, he has gone back to his roots and put together a proudly parochial menu that runs from Jane Grigson's curried parsnip soup to crackled roast Middle White pork with quince and roast potatoes, and a salad of dandelion, wet walnuts, Shropshire Blue and Lambourne apples.

British food has rarely been treated with such a combination of skill and respect. There is no ego on the plate here, and no silly foams and ices; a case of finding the very best ingredients, introducing them briefly to one another on the plate and then leaving them alone.

So a salad of picked Cornish crab (£10.50) is dressed with crustacea oil and piled on to three soft-bellied, crisp-edged, warm, potato-drop scones. Perfect. It has balance, subtlety, freshness and flavour.

It's the same story with a skuet (a Victorian term referring to a skewer) of Tobermory scallops with treacle-cured bacon (£12.50); the two warm and wobbly, juicy-sweet, cushion-sized scallops complete with their roes, gift-wrapped in bacon and perched on a tangle of fresh, little, green pea shoots. Pea, bacon and scallops: the ABC of fine British ingredients.

Pot-roast partridge (£19.50) is a rustic fireside meal of birdie bits, sprout tops, bacon lardoons and chestnuts on chocolate-enriched jus. It's good without being finessed to death, and better with a bright, berry-ripe Vincent Girardin Close de la Confrerie 2000 Santenay (£36).

Meat-and-potato types will feel quite at home here with urban macho food such as Broadbent's rump of lovely salt-marsh lamb (£18), sliced in big, masculine chunks and comfortably combined with a brunoise of root vegetables, a sweetly vinegared red-cabbage coleslaw and a homely slab of layered hotpot potatoes, which are just as firmly under-cooked as on my first visit, so the odd ball is still getting past the keeper.

For dessert, there is apple and pear crumble with clotted cream and a Bakewell tart camped up with a raspberry ripple ice cream. A good, tangy lemon curd ice cream (£6.50) is a kid's treat, served in high retro fashion in a shallow silver coupe, drizzled with more curd and given a finger of very short vanilla shortbread.

On the debit side, Bluebird is still going for speed records, and the whole thing barrels along too fast. The room is too warm and too dark. Sliced bread is a bit naff-caff, and the absence of pre- or post-dinner treats is ungenerous. The best-behaviour ambience is exacerbated by the French sommelier (the only Gaul) who could do with some lightening up, and the rest of the (thankfully British) staff could resist the urge to visit the table as often as flies to dung. I counted 25 hits in the first hour alone, before I started swatting them away.

All credit to Conran and Broadbent, however, for taking on British cooking where the gastropub leaves off, and dressing it up for smart society without getting all Frenchy-poo about it. Bluebird is proof that properly sourced, skilfully cooked and elegantly served British food can make the British dining experience as great as the French one.

Could this be a watershed discovery for British diners - and will they be happy to pay Michelin-star prices for the ethnic British equivalent? When that happens, we will know we are building a strong food culture, in our own country and in our own language.

16 Bluebird Dining Room 350 King's Road, London SW3, tel: 020 7559 1129. Lunch Sunday. Dinner Monday to Saturday. Around £140 for two including wine and service

Scores: 1-9 Stay Home And Cook 10-11 Needs Help 12 Ok 13 Pleasant Enough 14 Good 15 Very Good 16 Capable Of Greatness 17 Special, Can't Wait To Go Back 18 Highly Honourable 19 Unique And Memorable 20 As Good As It Gets

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E-mail Terry Durack about where you've eaten lately at