Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?


Fay Maschler reviews the The White Onion: another winner in SW19

A restaurant opens in Wimbledon. The opening game of this year’s tennis tournament is next Monday. Will the first be a service to the second, I wonder? Will Novak Djokovic and Petra Kvitova be racing there to raise a glass or weep into their soup? Actually, there isn’t currently any soup on the menu.

The White Onion, which replaces The Lawn Bistro, is owned by Sarah and Eric Guignard, who run The French Table in Surbiton. It retains the distinction of being one of the few independents in a high street strung with chains. The look has not changed much since chef Ollie Couillaud was at the helm of The Lawn, although there has been a paint job in a not very food-friendly strident blue. The button-back leather banquettes are as uncomfortable as before. I think even the pictures are the same.

When I ring to book for dinner on a Tuesday the unusually polite chap taking the details says: “Mrs Miller (my pseudonym du jour), is this for a special occasion?” Snottily, I wonder if this is a Surbiton query — do people there only go out for birthdays and other anniversaries? Well, I could say that I am just back from Greece and very much looking forward to French food but I answer “No, it’s just dinner.”

In that the chef, young Frederic Duval who has come from The French Table, goes to great lengths to garnish, titivate, punctuate (commas and full stops of sauces) and elaborate, it is more than just dinner, it is TV cooking competition effort, an approach that needs a shouty person chivvying the kitchen along. Long waits before and between courses occur. During the first, bread is offered. A depleted array of small squares on a large wicker tray is described as being flavoured in turn by Gruyère cheese, olive, carrot or chorizo. Robust slices from a fine loaf — the nearby deli Bayley & Sage sells that fabulous sourdough made by Hedone — put on the table would work better.

Complex: honey roast quail with pistachio purée, celeriac remoulade and quail eggs (Picture: Adrian Lourie)The first strawberry of Wimbledon shows up as a garnish for duo of foie gras arranged on an oblong of slate, with at one end a shallow dish of foie gras brulée and at the other the liver flash-fried and served on toasted brioche with a trickle of sweet sauce. In the middle is a hurdle, a hedge (a net?) of chutney. If you admit foie gras to your diet, it is all competently done.

The flavours of orange and cardamom in what otherwise could be a Hollandaise are too sweet, souky and all-enveloping for four spears of white asparagus and what is described as crispy brioche — crispy is not a word except when attached to duck on a Chinese menu — has gone soggy in the egg mimosa (sieved yolk, chopped white) topping. Half a quail is served honey-roasted with pistachio purée, celeriac remoulade, “crispy” quail egg (like a tiny Scotch egg) and chicken jus. It is the best of the three first courses tried, complex but with a plot you can follow.

Cornish cod and stone bass (a relative of sea bass) as the starting points of two main courses are both oddly lacklustre in texture, and while you might argue that fish could be expected to be damp, that shouldn’t be the adjective that springs to mind. Accompaniments are studiously considered. Pomme darphin with the cod is more a cage around the cod than a potato cake or paillasson.

Another meaty duo is fashioned from pork belly in the guise of a small burger mixed with foie gras — good but not a patch on the one at Opera Tavern — and a tranche of the meat supplied by Dingley Dell in Suffolk caramelised and served with glazed asparagus in a sticky sauce. A pattern is emerging of cooking not exactly by numbers but by a process that is not apparently emanating from heart or soul. Legendary French chef Fernand Point once said “faites simple”. He had a point.

A second visit for lunch is more of a special occasion as I am with my daughter Alice, who is over from Australia, and she has just had a birthday. Upon discovering this, the manager becomes extra-attentive, positively avuncular. A revelation is that the set-price menu features nearly all the same dishes as the à la carte but at a price for two courses (£16.50) that is markedly less than an à la carte main course.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

Plaice and prawn tempura has feathery light batter, and maybe it is the same chef who attends to desserts producing an unctuous chocolate moelleux with honeycomb and caramel ice cream that we share. Assiette of Herdwick lamb with smoked aubergine purée, confit garlic cloves, chickpea batons and a lavender and lamb jus becomes a notable find in this more humane pricing system. Even the cheese board, allegedly supplied by La Fromagerie — uninvitingly priced at £12.50 in the evening — is £5.

Here is my advice to the tennis players. Go to The White Onion for lunch. Roam through the well-composed wine list. Forget the match. It’s their service.

67 High Street, SW19 (020 8947 8278, Lunch Fri-Sun, noon-2.30pm. Dinner Tues-Sat, 7pm-10.30pm (from 6.30pm Fri and Sat). Check for extended hours during the tennis championships. Set-price lunch £16.50/£19.50 for two/three courses. A la carte, a meal for two with wine about £130 including 12.5 per cent service.


You May Also Like


Professing to be the lead in Thai relationship with over 1.5 million enrolled single people, Cupid Media’s ThaiCupid brings the one in every of...


Read more about switzerland women here. Swiss ladies and men are not reknown for being the most chatty, outgoing or spontaneous when meeting strangers...


An exclusive article form Orestis Karipis In the 1930’s and 1940’s acid was the weapon of deceived husbands and wives in the Western world...


In food, if there is one thing you can say without fear of contradiction, it is this: Britain loves burgers. The UK market is...

Copyright © 2020 All Rights Reserved