World class

RESTAURANTS A travel agent rather than a waiter may be needed to guide you round today's menus; Call it a big white trout with air miles, if you like but it's not every day I get to eat fish caught in Lake Malawi

The menus of some London restaurants now roam the world so far and wide that sometimes a travel agent would be more useful than a waiter. Offering several destinations in the space of an evening, they assume we know our Dordogne and Umbria backwards, that we've grown out of the back-packer diet that takes in falafel and Thai curries and have moved on to more specialised long-haul delicacies.

When it's done well, eating out at home broadens the mind more effectively than an adventurous holiday. For the drawback with those cruises down the Nile, weekend breaks in Havana and east African safaris is that the food is often terrible. You're more likely to find yourself eating what we used to think of as international cuisine - chicken Kiev and the like - in a tourist hotel than you are in the smarter suburbs of London.

One of these, Barnes, has for several years been blessed with Sonny's - an exceptionally good restaurant which has consistently kept up with modern cooking. So, having heard that the owners of Sonny's had opened a new venue in SW15, I was determined to try their Phoenix Bar & Grill.

Our destination was hard to miss - dazzlingly white with a few diners sitting under huge umbrellas on the front terrace. Inside, it's tremendously cool without seeming clinical. Chatter was amplified by the bareness of the four interlocking rooms, decorated sparingly with black and white prints and Arne Jacobsen chairs of the sort Christine Keeler sat astride naked.

The cooking isn't just well travelled in the Voyages Jules Verne class, it's well informed, beyond the scope even of most specialist regional recipe books. Duck quesadillas (tortillas filled and fried); contadina (apparently like pizza base), with feta, olives, basil and cherry tomatoes are just two items which might need translating by staff who also knew that red tilapia is a fresh water fish from land-locked Malawi.

Some dishes derive from the chef's imagination and sense of what combines well: leek vinaigrette, crisp bacon and marinated anchovies, for example, rather than from recognised recipes. Others can be attributed to a particular location.

To start, I was more or less Morocco-bound. Sardine chermoula saute - a North African marinade of garlic, cumin, paprika, saffron, coriander leaves and lemon providing the crisp fried fish with a tangy juice. My travelling companion took the silk route east for a main course of slices of duck breast and bunches of pak choi in a lustrous broth. Most intrepid of all was the safari to sub-Saharan Africa. What exactly is red tilapia? Something huge, clearly, for I got only a tail section, the skin blackened and the flesh neither fatty nor too bony. It was served with slices of fried lemon, and rocket which had been given a fiery chilli boost. Call it a big white trout with air miles, if you like but it's not every day I get to eat fish caught in Lake Malawi. We met up over a Turkish-inspired order of sweet young vegetables in a room-temperature lemon juice marinade.

Everything, so far, had been delicious - taking the ideas and ingredients from a well-planned itinerary and cooking them with zest and clarity. The puds, as they're called, sounded like juvenile holiday treats. We passed on frozen pina colada and cold rice pudding. Our heads were turned by a strawberry and blackberry sundae which didn't taste as fruity as it looked. But orange tart, with chocolate marbled on top, was a grown- up pleasure.

Why, we decided, bother with the rigours of travelling any further afield when you can trek to Putney and eat far better for little more than the cost of a cab to Heathrow?

The Phoenix Bar & Grill, 162 Lower Richmond Rd/Pentlow St, London SW15 1LY (0181-780 3131) Open Sun-Fri, lunch, daily dinner. Three courses with wine, pounds 25-pounds 30. Sun brunch three courses and coffee pounds 16. Access, Amex, Switch, Visa

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
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 General

    Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

    £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

    Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

    £28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

    Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

    £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

    £18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

    Day In a Page

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003
    Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

    Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

    Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

    Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor