Diners have been effusive in their praise for new Soho restaurant Mountain. We secure a much sought-after seat to see what the fuss is about.
The only thing more troubling than snagging a booking at Mountain, chef Tomos Parry’s pretty Beak Street bolthole, is the unanimity with which the world has decided that a seat here is the best thing since sliced sourdough. Can it be so? If you are lucky enough to cross from the Soho hubbub into the Edwardian bones of the redbrick building (formerly a Byron burger joint), the appeal is admittedly instant: a heavy wooden door, good soundproofing and a bar hewn from English elm in a room surrounded by just-so joinery by designer Dan Preston.
The light is right across both floors of the 100-cover space too: whether it’s from the vast windows or the low-hung, dim-lit pendants presiding over the patchwork of busy tables. The stage is set; now for the entertainment. You might spot flames licking skywards from the wood-fired grill as chefs sizzle a pink bream a la plancha in the open kitchen, while the crowd revels in a moment that feels fathoms from the rain, tourists and chain shops just a windowpane away.
Like Parry’s beloved Shoreditch forebear, Brat, the food is a paean to the Welsh chef’s love of fresh-netted seafood and great produce. The final ingredient and reason for the restaurant’s name (so says the press release) is Spain’s mar y montaña cookery, or what we’ve taken to mean an immaculately delivered Iberian surf and turf. However Parry got there, the menu is magnificent. Lots of rich little sharey bits: tangy sobrassada, shatterings of pumpkin fritto laced with chestnut honey and a yielding spider crab omelette set with Japanese precision and a perfect wobble.
There’s no lull for the mains but a mite more theatre maybe. The Menorcan lobster stew is all velvet and brine, while fish (Dover sole, John Dory or sea bass when Monocle visits) can’t be faulted, nor can a selection of sirloins. There are also beef sweetbreads, rabbit with squid, or tripe, which all help adventurous orderers find less likely delights (and give the rest of us reasons to revisit).
For afters, the ensaïmada (a Mallorcan pastry) and torrija (a Spanish take on French toast) are proof in pudding form of the originality and charm of the place. The service is excellent too – far from a given in this well-trodden stretch of the West End – and delivered in uniforms made by designer Ventura Foreman of nearby Studio Nicholson.
Parry’s unlikely perch has put the business end of Carnaby Street back at the vanguard of something interesting for the quite some time. The only thing more troubling than everyone telling you how good Mountain is? How hard it is to disagree.
Tafelspitz is an Austrian classic and this sandwich is a great way to handle leftovers from a large Sunday roast. “I love the Tafelspitz sandwich at Vienna’s Cafe Korb,” says Swiss chef Ralph Schelling. “Use a good sourdough bread that doesn’t have to be toasted.”
Meal for 2 or snack for 4
4 slices of really good bread
2 tbsps wholegrain mustard
350g boiled veal or beef, sliced as thinly as possible
3 tbsps freshly grated horseradish (pickled will do)
6 tbsps pumpkin-seed oil
1 red onion, cut into rings
4 large cornichons
4 tomato slices
2 tbsps chives
Chopped lettuce leaves
Coarsely spread the sliced bread with mustard. Slice boiled meat as thinly as possible and cover bread with it. Grate horseradish over it. Garnish with onions, cornichons, tomatoes, chives and lettuce leaves.
This is a recipe that keeps on giving. You can expect plenty of leftover confit tomatoes to use in other recipes – just keep the rest of them with bits in an airtight container in the fridge for a week. This will be handy for pasta, salad and soups – don’t waste that delicious flavoured oil either.
500g cherry tomatoes, washed
1 large fresh red chilli
1 whole head of garlic
2 sprigs of thyme
¼ tsp of sea salt large pinch of black pepper
300ml olive oil
120g cream cheese
1. Preheat the oven to 200C (180C with fan).
2. Wash the cherry tomatoes and let them dry. Slice the chillies with seeds attached. Cut the whole garlic into half horizontally.
3. Place the tomatoes, sliced chillies and thyme in an ovenproof dish (Monocle used a 28cm x 20cm cast-iron gratin dish) and add the garlic, cut side down. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, pour on olive oil until it half covers the tomatoes. Depending on the dish you use, you might need more olive oil. You want the ingredients to be snuggled in the dish, so you confit the tomatoes rather than baking them. Using a smaller baking dish helps you to use less olive oil. Cover the dish with a sheet of foil and close it tightly, then place it in a preheated oven and cook for 35 to 45 minutes. The tomato and garlic should be soft but still hold their shape.
4. Remove from the oven and let cool.
5. Cut the bagel horizontally and toast. Spread the cream cheese on the toasted bagels, then arrange the confit tomatoes, garlic and chilli on top with a little of the flavoured oil. Sprinkle extra salt and pepper, and enjoy while warm.
Shop-bought sandwiches in Japan are usually fresher than in Europe or the US. Here, Swiss chef and recipe writer Ralph Schelling recreates his favourite: an egg sandwich on white bread from a 7-Eleven. “One of the tricks is the Kewpie mayonnaise,” he says. “The taste reminds me of when I worked at RyuGin in Tokyo. I’d often have the sandwiches after work at 03.00.”
60g Kewpie mayonnaise
½ tsp mustard
½ tsp salt
½ tsp sugar Black pepper
2 tsps cream
1 tbsp soft butter
8 slices of white bread
1. Set a large pan of water over a medium heat and place the eggs inside. Boil for 10 minutes then remove from the pan. Place in a bowl filled with ice water and let cool for about 15 minutes.
2. Carefully peel the eggs. Separate the yolks and whites. Place yolks in a bowl and mash with the back of a fork. Finely chop the egg whites and add to the bowl with the yolks.
3. Add mayonnaise, mustard, salt and sugar into the egg mixture and mix together until everything is coated. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
4. Stir the cream into the egg mixture and season to taste. Set aside.
5. Butter the bread. Layer one slice with egg salad and top with the remaining slice. Trim and discard the crust. Cut sandwich in hal. Enjoy.