Manuka Kitchen, 510 Fulham Road, London SW6

 

As foodies and health neurotics will tell you, manuka is a kind of super-honey, honey with magical healing properties. There was a buzz of excitement about it four years ago, when it was claimed that its antiviral and antibacterial wonderfulness meant it can heal flesh wounds: when you've finished spreading it on your toast you can smear it on your hurt finger. It comes from a single source – the bees that pollinate manuka trees in New Zealand's East Cape region – and costs a bloody fortune.

At Manuka Kitchen, I expected to see the stuff all over the menu. But apart from a single appearance on the crème brûlée, manuka honey doesn't feature at all. The owners seem to have chosen the name simply to suggest a) Kiwi influences in the kitchen, b) some healing effects and c) a hefty outlay of money. The chef, Tyler Martin, is indeed a Kiwi, from New Plymouth on the north island, and the restaurant that he and his Lebanese business partner, Joseph Antippa, have just opened does bring balm to the soul – but without it costing the earth.

It's situated in Fulham, close to Stamford Bridge FC: excellent, of course, for the passing trade on Saturday afternoons when Chelsea are playing at home, although Tyler's rabbit-and-venison-sausage rigatoni is unlikely to attract rank-and-file football fans. Maybe just as well since they have only 22 covers. The décor is minimal: tiny wood tables, terracotta tiles, plain white walls with dangling green lamps. You can see into the kitchen, which is the same size as the dining area and isn't a pretty sight: dirty white tiles, messy sink, too much greasy realism. But Tyler and Joseph are on a tight budget. They've opened their restaurant with their own funds and without bank or City loans, so the 'minimalism' and grubbiness aren't style choices but the product of financial necessity.

The menu, by contrast, radiates richness. There are All-Day plates (corn fritters with bacon and cream, fabulous eggs Benedict, tortilla with goat's cheese) and cheap Hot Rolls (meatballs with cheddar and jalapenos, 'steak sarnie', roasted pork with pickles and red cabbage, all £5 or £6) and Small and Large sharing plates, served with artistry and style. Bone marrow and saffron arancini are a beautiful sight, the risotto rice subtly flavourful, the crumb-coating miraculously light. Crispy squid came with nam jim sauce, a name that's fatally redolent of pyjamas but tastes delicious – a blend of soy and Thai nam pla with lime, chilli, garlic and ginger, that floods the squid flesh and legs with Pacific rim flavours. Steamed mussels with tomato and sweet potato were handsomely presented in a dramatic black iron skillet; a nice change from the usual mountain of shells, and the liquid's good enough to dip your bread in.

Mussels turned up again in Angie's main-course chicken breast with curry potato, cucumber and lettuce – an odd, unseasonal dish that just about came off. Chicken with mussels isn't an obvious combination (surf and farmyard?) but the salty brininess of the shellfish gave the nicely cooked poultry a touch of excitement. I had an array of beef, done three ways. I've seen a trio of pork, I'm frankly over-familiar with the troika of lamb (rump, shoulder and sweetbreads) but beef? This dish offered a standard sirloin, with beef tartare and a beef croquette, served with Parmentier potatoes. The steak was fabulous, medium-rare, broiled to perfection, juicy. The croquette was a complicated piece of cheffy showing-off: brisket, roasted for four hours, then shredded, rolled with a mirepoix, wrapped in clingfilm until it sets, then re-cooked and sliced. It was very tasty, but seemed a lot of trouble to go to just to be eclipsed by the steak. The tiny beef tartare was tepid and unexciting, like the underfed runt of a meaty family.

Puddings were complex and beautiful objets d'art. Raspberry Lamington was a Victoria sponge dusted with coconut and mostly overwhelmed by raspberry coulis. A slice of pavlova came with passionfruit sauce that cut through the meringue and bore the tastebuds off in triumph. It seemed rude not to try the manuka honey and saffron crème brûlée. I'm sorry to report, after all the anticipation, that it was frighteningly sweet and didn't do much for the crème brûlée. Another time I'll grab the blue-cheese-and-honeycomb option.

The service was warm and friendly throughout, the joint owners chatted like loquacious neighbours and supper passed in a convivial glow; so it was rather a pain to be told that the restaurant didn't take plastic cards, only cash, and I had to venture out into the freezing night in search of a cashpoint. This annoyance will be addressed soon, the owners say. It's a small black mark for this attractive and flavoursome addition to the gastroscape. As with the décor and the look of the kitchen, it needs just a small injection of money to make it bonzer.

Manuka Kitchen, 510 Fulham Road, London SW6 (020-7736 7588). Around £80 for two with wine

Food ***
Ambience **
Service ***

Tipping policy: "No service charge. All tips go to the staff"

Side orders: Sharing plates

Zoilo

The sharing plates at Marylebone's new hit restaurant focus on regional Argentina; try the grilled octopus and leeks, with potato and tuna mayo.

9 Duke Street, London W1 (020-7486 9699)

The Glad Café

The mixed sharing platter at this popular music venue consists of pork terrine, piccalilli, Serrano ham, maple and pomegranate dressing and goat's cheese.

1006a Pollokshaws Road, Shawlands, Glasgow (0141 636 6119)

Flinty Red

Customers are encouraged to share a dishes at this award-winning restaurant – try the pickled herrings with rhubarb and orange juice.

34 Cotham Hill, Bristol (0117 923 8755)

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Life and Style
tech

Apple has been hit by complaints about the 1.1GB download

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff
tv

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife
film

Matt Smith is set to join cast of the Jane Austen classic - with a twist

Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
tv

Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me
tv

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
Life and Style
i100

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.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week