I’m more and more convinced that Smoke is my favourite restaurant to exist in. Before the ogres come out to scream about their favourites, let me explain. I’m not saying that that it’s the best food because there are more interesting places, along with those who are more technically precise. But to sit in a place that feels like it exists in its own environment, eating food that I have chosen based on my preferences, it’s pretty bloody perfect.

And this restaurant, which I have launched into hyperbole repeatedly about ever since it opened, keeps on getting better by the visit. Stuart Deeley has reached a point where the menus are now a hybrid of his playful mind and the restaurants terroir. Each dish reflects the local suppliers that sit at the heart of Hampton Manors ethos, and are taken to spots that allows Stu to tease out their qualities. In that, the opening smorgasbord of cured meat, bread, and vegetables is almost a ruse. These are purely about the producer whereas what follows is how to manipulate them into something even more brilliant.

From the starters are burrata with Bloody Mary sauce; the spice bolstered by the umami heavy furikake seasoning. There is cured bass with radish and a liquor of smoked soy, lifted by a subtle kick of pokey wasabi. Best is the chicken liver parfait, silken and lustrous, topped with a Sherry jelly that feels almost Spanish when eaten together with the liver. The two things it shares the plate with – a pickled walnut purée, and a mostarda-like compote – have no right to work, yet they do, giving light and shade to the dish. It’s as good a liver parfait as I’ve eaten anywhere.

Mains tone down the brashness a touch. A breast of Guinea hen takes the protein down an unexpected umami-driven route, pairing the bird with a purée of heady black garlic and grilled king oysters under a foliage of hispi and herbs. Ox Cheek goes in the opposite direction, using nashi pear to bring a lightness to the braised meat whilst accentuating the nutty profile of both the maitake mushroom and parsnip. It’s all extremely clever and beautifully executed.

And then there is the beef, specifically the cote de boeuf for two. In a city that does steak so incredibly badly, it stands out for the sheer quality of cookery. Beef cooked over fire, a simple salad, and the same brilliant smoked Boulangere potatoes that come with all mains. It’s well worth the £25 per person supplement. Heck, it’s worth a taxi here alone.

There are two desserts though I only have eyes for one. A baked Alaska of rhubarb and custard, as naughty as it sounds and every bit as tasty. It also goes extremely well with a negroni. Across me is a chocolate delice with peanut and coffee. I’m told it was very good. I doubt it pairs well with a negroni.

When we eat it’s £60 for the four courses, though it’s more in the evening. The bill for four of us with a couple of bottles of wine, some sweet wine, the beef supplement and me drinking negroni like it’s, well, negroni, comes to a figure I don’t see because someone else is getting the bill. And that amounts to a pretty perfect lunch, where the sun beat down on the windows, I got phenomenally pissed on a mixture of gin, Campari and Vermouth, and they even let us play a couple of sneaky tracks on the playlist. Born to Run and All The Things She Said, if you’re wondering. There really is nowhere quite like Smoke.


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