You’ll be in seventh heaven at The Ninth
First solo venture by Jun Tanaka – his ninth restaurant – is highly sophisticated yet deliberately laid back with classy French-Mediterranean dishes
07 December, 2018 — By Tom Moggach
The Ninth’s razor clam ceviche is a real sizzler
I’VE never seen a potato like it,” sighed my friend, halfway through lunch.
She was right – the crispy Belle de Fontenays, a variety of waxy potato, were a marvel. Each spud was slashed dozens of times, with laser-like precision, to soak up the basting fat and maximise crunch. “It’s like the love child of a crisp and roast potato.”
Touches like this – painstaking and technically skilled – are what makes The Ninth a class act.
This restaurant is highly sophisticated yet deliberately laid back. Behind the scenes, the chefs peel grapes and pluck microherbs with tweezers. Out front, our waitress wears jeans, an open white shirt and braces.
The Ninth is the first solo venture by Jun Tanaka, a chef with a dishy CV that includes Le Gavroche and The Square. This is his ninth restaurant.
It took him nearly three years to find this 90-seat venue on Charlotte Street in Fitzrovia.
“Central but not touristy,” Tanaka says, popping out of the kitchen. “It’s got that neighbourhood vibe.”
The chef describes his food as simple but refined French Mediterranean dishes designed for sharing – a broad canvas for his talent. The décor is the epitome of on-trend London dining: bare brick walls; filament lightbulbs; no surprises but swish and comforting.
The paper menu is divided into snacks, salads, pastas, raw and cured, fish, meat and vegetables.
A pair of oysters arrived with splash of ginger vinaigrette and nest of fried shallots for texture.
The razor clam ceviche was a sizzler: the strange stretchy mollusc chopped then mixed with sea aster, samphire, diced tomato and citrus juice, then reassembled carefully in its shell.
The autumn menu showcases game. Pheasant-stuffed ravioli were intensely savoury and swimming in an aromatic beef consommé – a lovely dish, but no match for what was to come.
In most restaurants, the starters are far more exciting the mains. (I often skip the larger dishes altogether and order a medley of smaller plates). The Ninth smashed this rule with a humdinger of a main course: thick slices of roe deer fillet cooked in a salt crust, served with kale, hazelnut pesto, red cabbage purée and a viscous, glossy sauce we sucked from our fingers.
A dessert of roasted figs with tuiles and Tonka ice cream was unmemorable; but the pain perdu, a sort of posh French toast, was fabulous. The custard-soaked brioche was encased in a thin crust of dark, hard-set caramel – the heat and subtle bitter notes balanced by vanilla cream.
The Ninth is the ideal place for that special meal: a Christmas catch-up, date, or business lunch when someone else picks up the bill.
A set lunch costs a reasonable £22 for two courses; £28 for three. Or you could spend around £50 a head for an a la carte meal with a glass of wine.
Those epic crispy potatoes cost a mere £6. Believe me, that’s the best bargain you’ll find this side of Christmas.
22 Charlotte Street, W1
020 3019 0880