Forget the racism row in Hollywood, the real scandal was Michelin not being able to find any executive female chefs worthy of a Michelin star in France for their 2016 edition. It is still very hard to break into the very male dominated world of the restaurant kitchen these days. Sophie Michell is one of those rare success stories: she has trained at La Gavroche and the Greenhouse, she’s been a private chef for Claudia Schiffer and Leonardo DiCaprio, she’s hosted her own TV show and written numerous cookbooks.She became the youngest ever female executive chef at 31 when she helped launch Pont St in 2013.
With such a stellar CV, you would expect a long waiting list for a restaurant table. Sadly the opposite was true, we sat for a 3 hour dinner from 19:30 to almost 22:30 on a wintry Tuesday evening, there was a grand total of 2 tables including ours. You have to feel sorry for their kitchen team who were enthusiastically looking forward to inspiring diners with their creations.
Where has it gone wrong? The location is in a more residential part of Knightsbridge so they are unlikely to get many walk-in from shoppers. The decor is inoffensive, but can only be best described as having the typical ‘hotel cafeteria’ look.
There certainly isn’t much wrong with the food. I had already tried a considerable selection at the Taste London festival. Their salmon tartare is delicately handled with a dash of crème fraiche, capers, lemon, shallots and salmon roe and letting the freshness of the fish speak for itself. The seabass ceviche was beautifully presented in a glass contraption, which keeps a dish cool without submerging the dish in a puddle of water at the end. The fish was equally fresh but it was perhaps unnecessary to submerge the dish in a pool of citrusy liquid.
Letting the ingredients express themselves was a theme that continued with the main courses. The free range chicken paillard was tender and was delectably marinated with honey and lemon dressing. The roasted cod had a firm texture without being overcooked and matched ideally with pea puree and wild mushrooms. It was a dish I could quite happily order another portion and savour without worrying about desserts.
However, we did order a cheese and fruit platter to finish our meals. You can’t go wrong with cheese supplied by Neal’s Yard and complemented with Grandma’s sweet chutney and walnut toast. The fruit platter was quite out of tune with the portion size of everything else that went before. There were enough fruits to feed a family of 4; I can’t guarantee you will necessarily get the same fruit platter if you visit them on a busier night!
You do have to worry for a restaurant when they have such disappointingly quiet nights, but we do need to support our great female chefs like Sophie Michell. I recommend making a trip to Pont St and judging for yourself.