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May 24, 2019

Elizabeth Haigh at Mortimer House review: ‘Catch it while it lasts’

By Arun Kakar

Arun Kakar heads to the exceedingly cool Mortimer House for the excellent first entry in its new residency series 

Mortimer House is cool. Tucked on a corner of, erm, Mortimer Street in Fitzrovia, it bills itself as a ‘private members workspace and wellbeing destination’. Spanning six floors of Art Deco, this is a place founded on a philosophy of ‘holistic balance’, with fitness classes, a meditation room and plenty more for the mind and soul. None of that stuff tonight, however, for Spear’s, who trundles in and heads straight up to the Living room and Den on the fifth floor.

With its pioneer-wielding DJ, tidy bar, sofas and dining area –  there are only 24 covers – it feels like we’ve been invited to a gourmand’s idea of a loft party. It’s a beautiful day, and the floor is positively glowing,  an airy-yet-intimate space that we instantly feel at home with. It’s here, that Mortimer House’s guest chef residency kicks off with Elizabeth Haigh of Kaizen House.

Haigh arrives with a culinary clout that is almost at odds with the scale of the residency. She earned a Michelin Star as founding head chef at Pidgin in Hackney, before founding Kaizen House. She is known for a scintillating cuisine that draws from her Singaporean-British heritage.

So, yes, we were excited. Kicking things off with a stiff Negroni, we take our seats and cede to our waiters white wine suggestion, which forms a crisp, cool undercurrent for the ensuing five courses, a tour de force of a virtuoso chef operating at the height of their powers.

Proceedings begin with some moreish Padron peppers alongside yuzu mayo and togarashi, a light, breezy dish to get things going before things get serious with a buttermilk fried chicken sandwich, coated in caviar and katsu,

Who knew fried chicken could be so delicate? Katsu has found such prevalence across our high streets in recent years, from Marks and Spencer wraps to lunchtime bowls, but this is a reminder of why we fell in love with it in the first place. It’s rich, cosy and altogether delicious.

Then there’s tomatoes, tofu, dashi and crispy nori bowl, a swerve from fried to fresh that tastes like the rush of a breeze, impossibly healthy yet slightly indulgent in the best way. Then it’s the belted Galloway rump, served with a black sesame Béarnaise and vegetables. Seemingly positioned as the menu’s centrepiece, it more than lives up to its billing. This is a luxurious dish that transcends the pub-food allusions that a ‘steak and veg’ title can bring to mind.

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The sauce, salty and fructuous, doesn’t overwhelm the meat, which is cooked with that kind of mathematical precision that makes it just right. By the end, we’re mopping up everything that’s left of our sauce with the broccoli.

Our dessert, a kaya caramel ‘toast’, is exactly the sort of syrupy send-off that we didn’t know we needed. Unashamedly loaded with sweetness, it’s a bright note to finish yet it is nevertheless amplified by its nexus of different flavours.

They intertwine and come together in a way so seamless that you’d be forgiven for missing any because of the fun that the mix conjures. When the ebullient and friendly Haigh pays a visit to our table, we salute the dessert – she beams and agrees that it’s also her favourite.

By the end, it’s crystal clear that Haigh is the perfect choice for this promising series of residencies.

Her menu is crafted with an unpretentiousness and directness that is both familiar and inventive. The convivial, lively Mortimer House sets the stage for the evening with aplomb. A chef this good on a scale this small? Catch this one while it lasts.

Kaizen House runs until the end of June at Mortimer House

Arun Kakar writes for Spear’s

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