Four Things You Should Eat At Scully St James's | St James's London


Four Things You Should Eat At Scully St James's

The ex-head chef from NOPI’s new venture takes diners on a global journey.

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Tucked away off the main piazza of St James’s Market, on a narrow pedestrianised alleyway leading down to Charles II Street, is this immensely stylish new restaurant from Ramael Scully, former head chef of Yotam Ottolenghi’s acclaimed Soho off-shoot, NOPI.
Like nearby Ikoyi, the lauded West African restaurant which topped many food critics’ end-of-year charts, this new arrival is serious. In a good way. The discreet entrance sets the tone: the first thing you see are captivatingly colourful jars lined up on wooden shelves, storing an array of (actual) pickles, syrups, shrubs, preserves, fermented fruit and vegetables. And this is no mere decoration: these items, as we discover, form the basics of Scully’s larder, adding layers of flavour and originality: this experimental restaurant really is about cooking as a slow process.

Front-of-house is welcoming and accommodating. We hadn’t booked, (but strongly recommend doing so) yet were happily seated at a perfect corner table, a vantage spot to admire the interior, all natural wood, duck-egg blue and grey marble. There are pendants and big industrial extractors throughout, but inevitably all eyes are focused on the central open kitchen, in which everything is on show. It proves mesmerizing to watch the team prepare the food, not a voice raised – at least not on our Monday night visit.

Healthily nomadic, Scully’s aim is to “take diners on a journey around the world”, from his childhood home in Malaysia to the kitchens in Sydney where he trained, and trips to the Middle East, Russia and Europe. He has, in fact, been based in Britain since 2004, when he started working at Ottolenghi’s first outpost in Islington. He then moved to NOPI as head chef in 2011, remaining at the helm until last year. And now, after over a decade cooking side by side with Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, this opening, backed by Yotam’s family, is the latest step in what appears a wholesomely collaborative relationship.

Vegetable Jerky

Each dish is extraordinarily beautiful: this tasty snack comprises two tumbles of vegetables on an earthenware plate, dusted in powder. The carrot is dehydrated for up to seven hours, while strands of beet – which have the texture of liquorice – are served with blobs of cashew nut cheese. An intriguing start, it’s a real conversation piece.

Arepa, Eggplant Sambal, Bergamot Labneh

A Columbian (and Venezualan) staple, arepa is a fried golden patty of maize flour, often eaten as a breakfast item. Here it’s served pleasingly outsize, allowing the disc to be shared between two and spooned with a dark mound of rich aubergine in sambal, the spicy paste made from chilli peppers, garlic, ginger, shallots and lime juice. Creamy yoghurt with a hint of bergamot – the sour citrus fruit that gives Earl Grey its distinctive taste – adds contrast and luxury.

Sticky Butternut Salad, Apple Shrub

Another eye-catching plate, the vivid green shrub – or apple vinegar, reduced for two hours – is poured by the server around bright orange chunks of very slow-roasted squash, strewn in a tangy nest of seeds, green beans and spring onions. The texture of the squash is so candied, in fact, that the flesh melts quite literally in the mouth.

Octopus, Salt-Baked Avocado, Black Garlic

A stand-out dish. The tentacles are steamed in a warm bath for six hours, producing butter-soft results, the caramelized garlic adding sticky, subtle, and slightly acidic sweetness. Meanwhile the pale whorl of avocado is the result of the fruit being baked for thirty minutes, giving a marzipan-creamy texture. Most surprising? The tomatoes, zingily sweet and adding a fresh piquancy to an otherwise earthy plate.