- on his website www.andyhayler.com. Please click here to read.
- and on his blog www.andyhayler.com/blog. Please click here to read.
Nick Harman, Editor Foodepedia:
on www.foodepedia.co.uk. Please click here to read.
You seldom get the things you want unless you specifically ask for them – that’s what I’ve come to realize anyway. There’s no point relying on someone else to read your mind and to figure out what will make you happy; it will only end in disappointment, and why waste time on that? There’s no doubt that coyness and mystery have their uses, but directness and honesty often save a bit of heartache. Even though I’ve found that’s true most of the time, there are a few instances where you can rely on someone else to take care of your own happiness – as exemplified in The Dysart.
This family-run ex-pub is a little gem of a place, nestled into the green folds of Richmond with a view onto the rolling endlessness of Richmond Park. It’s a pretty location but a total bitch to get to, and the lack of a car and a willing driver has meant that the journey has escaped me until recently. It takes a little nudging, but I manage to convince a colleague that he would much rather eat mackerel with kombu braised daikon in a champagne jus, followed by hake in a mussel and candied orange stew, than drive home. The mackerel turns out to be brilliant; the antithesis of every other bad fish dish in history. Its skin is taut and crisp and gently browned; it’s flesh supple and yielding. Technically accomplished, it is elevated further by the Japanese influenced flecks of preserved tuna and ginger; an influence from head chef Kenneth Culhane’s time in South East Asia, no doubt.
The hake is cooked well in an academic sense, but neither of us are partial to the accompanying mussel and saffron sauce. It’s in desperate need of something sharp to liven up the palate, and the crystallized orange is just not citric enough or present enough to punch through the creaminess. This is the only misstep in an otherwise excellent meal, and it isn’t my dish so I’m still happy #sorrynotsorry.
From the A La Carte menu the confit leeks with Vin Jaune and 36-month aged Comté is a proper little number, insistently salty and impossible not to ravage, it finds balance by using a humble risotto as a supporting act, along with buttery strands of spring-green leek. This is followed by a capably handled loin and haunch of sika venison with celeriac croustillant and Cumberland jus.
Service is impeccable without being intrusive, and professional whilst remaining friendly. Water glasses are topped up as and when needed, without us even realizing that they are empty. There is also a refreshing absence of up-selling; we aren’t heckled into ordering wine or any other extras, and the waitress even suggests that we stall ordering dessert as we might be too full. I mean, how great is that?!
It turns out she was right, but the blogger in me cannot bear to leave without photographing at least one third course – a rather good looking Valrhona Jivara chocolate and praline bar with miso salted caramel ice cream. The little extras of homemade soda and cevennes onion bricohe, amuse bouche and petit fours make The Dysart a fine-dining sort of place, without any hint of ponceyness or arrogance.
I like The Dysart so much that I’ve figured out a bus route that will deliver me straight into its capable arms. I leave in high spirits, with the glowing satisfaction that £40 pp is all it costs to be this well taken care of.
We have now held two business networking events at The Dysart Petersham and they have both been excellent. The venue is sophisticated, yet friendly and welcoming. The team did a wonderful job and all our attendees were highly impressed. The canapés were out of this world. If anyone wants somewhere special to go in Richmond, I will always recommend this place. And many congratulations on the Good Food Guide Top 100 Restaurants accolade – well deserved!
Ranked No 55 in the Top 100 restaurants in the whole of the UK by the 2015 Good Food Guide
“Superbly inventive and precise cooking”
“Canapes start at ‘stunning’ ”
“Exemplary cooking skills, innovative ideas, impeccable ingredients and an
element of excitement”
in addition, according to the ‘Eating Undercover’ section of the Guide, a dish from The Dysart Petersham is one of the top five highlights of the year, citing its Soy and mirin-marinated scallop sushi with truffle mayonnaise as the ‘Best single bite of food I ate this year.’
I’ve just found my new favourite restaurant, and it’s in the form of a semi fine dining, unpretentious, relaxed, well priced former gastropub – serving absolutely stunning food. I could probably stop writing everything here on with that one liner but talking about this food is not only exciting, but extremely easy and a real pleasure. The only one criticism I can really give The Dysart is not being closer to my home. Nestled away in what I thought was deep deep Richmond really wasn’t true. Taking a walk through the lovely village, down towards the river, through a stunning field and you’re pretty much at the front door. With a choice to sit inside the beautifully decorated dining room, or outside in the lush green pretty courtyard – it’s really up to you.
Despite being on the tube (just), leafy Richmond, with its sylvan river pathways and jumbo cords, panama hats and shops for chic ladies d’un certain age, is so Not London, it’s like being in a foreign county. Oh, that’s right – it’s Surrey, which has become shorthand for everything polished and perjink and twee. And Petersham Road isn’t likely to loom large on the tick-lists of the capital’s foodie jeunesse dorée. The Dysart, in all its Tudorbethan, mullion-windowed magnificence, could almost come adorned with a banner saying, “Gin and Jag-ers welcome.” (I don’t mean Jaggers, although he does live up the road.) But anyone sniffy about suburbs or half-timbering would be missing a massive trick: there’s some significant talent in this kitchen.
That it’s no common or garden boozer is evident in, well, the garden. From this lush exuberance chef (and former Roux scholarship winner), Kenneth Culhane gathers herbs and leaves and edible flowers for his meticulously presented dishes. You can gauge the poshness by the freebies. Canapés: buttery parmesan shortbread topped with leaves of piment d’espelette jelly. Amuses: peeled cherry tomatoes in a relish made from cornue des Andes (chilli-shaped tomatoes of sweet intensity) with blobs of olive oil “jam”. And petits fours: squares of vivid fruit jelly and salted caramel truffles. This has destination dining writ large over the flagstones and heritage colour charts.
Culhane’s food plays with classic French technique and outré Japanese flavours. Here are hand-dived scallops, caramelised outside and opalescent within, in a crystal-clear broth scented with fennel and the savoury thrum of wakame; so far, so conventional(ish). Then you discern a fleeting note of popcorn in the hot liquid. Or mackerel, energised by its thorough charring, daikon braised in kombu dashi, ginger and, er, champagne. There’s always a welcome little jolt of surprise.
I admit to disappointment that the “tamarind Challans duck” for two doesn’t come as the whole, lacquered bird of my imagination, but it’s a belter: the thinly sliced, rare breast in a sauce so floral and heady and sticky (there’s hibiscus in there, too), it’s like gambolling in a tropical greenhouse. Its legs are served separately: confit-ed and shredded on a thick puddle of pureed Roscoff onion – one of the meal’s few genuinely sweet notes. (The kitchen seems to avoid sugar, and the odd dish teeters over into mouth-puckering acerbity.)
There’s a real feel for seasonal produce: the weeny but hugely flavoured Mara des Bois strawberries that dot an elderberry sorbet; the stalks of perfectly pink chard flanking some superb venison loin; the almost outrageously bosky beetroot that Culhane salt-bakes and scatters with hazelnuts. Off-notes are rare: a tiny pie of venison haunch that comes with the loin winks lasciviously, but is dry and dull; and slightly puddingy Japanese rice mars an otherwise excellent dish of braised lamb with tiny bonbons of fried, crumbed sweetbreads. But with “pommes de terre à la Landaise” (more like pommes Anna, if you ask me: a fondant fancy of the butteriest, crispest, finely sliced potatoes), all is forgiven.
Despite the loveliness of our French and Irish servers, and a High-Tory but ungreedy wine list, the atmosphere is a tad constipated. They have enraged locals who have mistaken the place for a pub by refusing to let them wander in for a pint. Plus there are dark mutterings that the owner – who seems a bit of A One – has “thrown out” the WI and implemented a zero-tolerance policy towards unruly children. I’m not sure this doesn’t make me like it more.
I understand that management might not want to sully the beauty of their garden with signs announcing, “This is not a boozer, it’s not even a gastropub, it is a posho restaurant” – they have tried to do it subtly by changing the Dysart Arms to the Dysart – but the message is taking a while to filter through. So I’m doing it for them. And a bloody good posho restaurant it is, too.
“A proper fine-dining restaurant that’s keen to impress – top-quality ingredients with a mix of classic know-how, youthful enthusiasm and curiosity.”
“Halibut with a delicate ‘Viennese’ crust arrives with a rich, creamy vin jaune sauce. After that, expect thought-provoking desserts such as a Valrhona chocolate and praline bar with miso-salted caramel ice cream. ”
“A kindly priced wine list with plenty by the glass or carafe.”
“The tasting menu with accompanying selected wines (you could opt for selected beers if you prefer) was a festival for the palate, where juxtapositioned tastes and textures created a dining experience that would not be out of place amongst the Michelin-starred establishments.”
“When you find this slice of dining heaven, all other meals are rendered incomparable.”
“This is a family run restaurant and an excellent one at that. To use the term ‘fine dining’ would be a cop out, the dining is fine make no mistake, good enough to rival any award winning bistro in the Capital…..”
“The Dysart is one of the must visit dining destinations in the Greater London area for 2013. There, I said it. The food is inventive, brilliantly executed and a fabulous exploration of seasonal produce. A lot of the dishes we experience were of the highest level and a few were truly memorable.”
“It’s a long time since I’ve had a meal that really is such a cut above the rest. While you can go for a quick lunch or dinner, if you can, just take your time.”
“My first impression on arriving was what an enchanting and beautiful place… The evening was dark and the soft glow from inside the building was very inviting, especially on a cool early spring evening”
“The Dysart scored top marks in just about every area: food, drink, service, atmosphere – all absolutely impeccable and personal”
“it is great to find a place quietly turning out lovely food. Dysart is a hidden gem to which I will most certainly be returning regularly.”
Tatler Restaurant Guide 2014
“in search of the best” – across London and the UK
The Dysart Petersham – one of 46 from the “Best of Britain” category, from Skye to Kent and Cornwall.
AA 2 stars