Restaurant review: Granny knows best but will PipsDish's take-it-or-leave-it cooking catch on?

PipsDish, 15 Exeter Street, London WC2 (020-7240 7232)

Gastro-minimalism has a new face. Forget the specialist burger vans that did a roaring trade in south London before becoming actual restaurants, like MeatLiquor.

Forget the 'pop-up' restaurants that brought limited-period fancy cuisine to unusual settings, as when The French Laundry touched down like a UFO in Harrods. PipsDish takes the concept of the restaurant to extremes of simplicity. Look around this tiny box of a place (it used to be a cookie shop) and you may feel dismayed. I've been in sandwich bars that promise a more fulfilling gourmand experience.

Your eye takes in the four (count 'em – four!) tables, the wooden-bench seating, apparently made from planks glued together, the cheapo, whitewash-and film-poster decor (West Side Story, Fassbinder's Querelle). Blue fairy lights are trained around the room in a desperate attempt at jollity.

On top of a wooden structure that houses cookbooks, there's a little display of 'produce' – lemons, garlics, squash – as though we're at a sparsely-attended harvest festival. In the kitchen area, the pass and the dinner plates' stack jostle for space. The restaurant's entire wine cellar and computerised till are both located in a beautiful old French armoire. Only a shiny plastic-skinned Smeg fridge suggests any concession to the modern world.

You can appreciate my confusion: it was like straying on to the set of a one-act Beckett play set in someone's kitchen, a simulacrum of cosiness, where everything is a prop, rather than a real thing. "This is exactly like being in the kitchen of my girlfriend's flat in Notting Hill," said Angie, "when we were both 21 and starting out."

Could we see the menu? No, said Olivia, our sweet waitress, there weren't any menus. But she'd tell us what was on today. Minestrone and Welsh rarebit. Game terrine with lamb's lettuce. Then, for main courses, stuffed mushrooms. Or pork shoulder with stir-fried chard.

We waited. Was that it? That was it. Olivia explained that the owner, Philip Dundas, or his head cook Mary, go to market every morning, see what they fancy cooking, then bring it home and cook it. Ce n'est pas le science de roquette.

As readers of Breakfast with Lucian by Geordie Greig will know, Freud conducted his weekly breakfast salon in Sally Clarke's in Kensington, where the main attraction is that Ms Clarke gives you no choice about what you're eating. I've always found this approach arrogant and unbending in the Mother-knows-best, take-it-or-starve sense. Maybe some aspirant lunchers who venture in here will vamoose on learning the deal, and head for Joe Allen's next door. But they'd be missing a trick. It may not be gourmet, but PipsDish is Home Cooking at its purest.

The game terrine, of venison, rabbit and pork sausage, made on the premises and served with half a slice of toasted sourdough (steady on) was supple and pungently flavoursome, given bite and sweetness by pink beetroot batons in cider vinegar. Angie's minestrone seethed with fresh vegetables, including tiny chanterelle mushrooms, and threatened, with the toasted cheese and French mustard, to be a one-course meal. "It's perfect winter-lunch food," she said.

But she found room for the stuffed mushrooms, served with stir-fried cabbage and sauerkraut, and pronounced them fine. My shoulder of pork had been triple-smoked and cooked in London stout, and was utterly delicious, a dish with enfolding arms. The accompanying stir-fried chard and savoy cabbage was a little over-vinegarised, but harmonised with the smoky pig.

The secret of his cooking, Philip ('Pip') Dundas revealed, is using a pressure cooker, a process he learnt from his granny – the owner, it turned out, of the armoire in the corner. A handsome chap in his thirties, Dundas has published a book, Cooking Without Recipes, which adopts a breezily non-dirigiste approach to culinary excellence. He recommends simplicity, a "scattergun approach" to shopping, and giving in to "mood" and "feel" when planning something to eat. Presented with the only pudding, a chocolate and almond cake with a pear poached in a red wine reduction, I too gave in to mood and feel, and devoured it in seconds.

PipsDish represents the opposite of every modern tendency in restaurateurship. It buys limited ingredients (thus cutting down waste), cooks them in a way Pip's granny would have approved, finishes every dish without elaboration or fuss, and serves it as if the restaurant's only intention was to feed the hungry. Could it catch on? I sure hope so.

Food ***
Ambience **
Service ****

PipsDish, 15 Exeter Street, London WC2 (020-7240 7232). About £70 for two, with wine

exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Colombia's James Rodriguez celebrates one of his goals during the FIFA World Cup 2014 round of 16 match between Colombia and Uruguay at the Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Antoine Griezmann has started two of France’s four games so far
Life and Style
techYahoo Japan launches service to delete your files and email your relatives when you die
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Arts and Entertainment
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>
filmRobert Downey Jr named Hollywood's highest paid actor for second year running
Life and Style
Dale Bolinger arranged to meet the girl via a fetish website
Sign here, please: Magna Carta Island
propertyYours for a cool £4m
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 Food & Drink

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Recruitment Consultant (Trainee), Finchley Central, London

    £17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...

    Day In a Page

    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
    Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

    Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

    Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
    Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

    Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

    They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
    The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

    20 best days out for the summer holidays

    From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
    Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

    All the wood’s a stage

    Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
    Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

    Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

    Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
    Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

    Self-preservation society

    Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
    Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

    Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

    We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor