Spring is one of those places that I feel like I shouldn’t really be allowed to go to. It’s calm, stylish, and a million miles away from the chaos that is my normal life. I don’t know how they do it actually.
It can’t just be the decor, because I’ve been to other places with equally beautiful dining rooms. Maybe it’s the fact it’s in the rather marvellous Somerset House. Perhaps it’s the wonderful amount of light that pours in – something that its creator was apparently certain she wanted when she was looking for where to open Spring. Who knows.
What I do know, however, is its ability to pluck you out of your hurried daily life and make you pause, lean back in your chair and exhale is no good for a food blog. I mean, I’m not that great a blogger at the best of time – my pictures aren’t perfect, my food knowledge isn’t encyclopaedic and my love of wine often gets the better of me.
But my experience at Spring was so relaxing that I find I came away with about five pictures, no notes, no picture of the menu, and just vague memories of lovely dishes and a desire to return. So if you like the War and Peace posts I sometimes put on this blog I’m afraid this one may leave you a little bit disappointed but hey, if you want short and sweet and a bit of what we’ll generously call an ‘overview’ of a meal, then this is the one for you.
In case you didn’t know (I didn’t, so I don’t mean this in a patronising way), Spring is a restaurant by Skye Gygnell – a big name on the London restaurant scene and probably best known as the head chef at Petersham Nurseries, which is all about seasonal food inspired by what she had seen around her.
Spring is similar. It’s all about seasonal produce. It’s simple, wholesome and all about the ingredients. On our visit I discovered that they even offer a three-course pre-theatre ‘Scratch’ menu for just £20 that artfully transforms any waste produce into glorious dishes proving that so much of what we waste could be put to much better use.
We’re not here for that, but it’s that idea of using everything and allowing ingredients to truly sing. It’s clearly a good move, since my dining partner and I struggled with what to order, jumping from one wonderful-sounding dish to another, then back again, before finally making up our minds.
She eventually settled on the buratta, served with a delicately fried courgette flower, vivid green peas and various micro herbs. It was delicate, fresh, and proof that sometimes less is so, so much more. Yes, I wish I could tell you each and every ingredient, but I was too busy luxuriating in my own eating experience to even steal a bite from her plate.
I had gone for clams. Again, done in that simple way that neither masks nor overwhelms these little mouthfuls of fishy goodness but just emphasises them, whisking you out of central London to somewhere by the sea where you imagine they’ve been plucked that very day. As with the burrata, herbs are here in abundance – presumably an influence from Gygnell’s Petersham Nurseries days – which seem to simultaneously bring flavour, aroma and an aesthetic element all in one go.
For main I opted for veal. I’m glad I had no idea quite how large it was when I ordered it, or I might have changed my mind and that would have meant missing out on what is the best veal dish I’ve ever had. So often, I order this delicate meat, convinced it will be a mind-blowing experience, and so often it just isn’t.
Not so this time. Perhaps it was the way it was cooked – as if it had been basted repeatedly in butter and its own fat until golden brown on the outside with a very slight crunch, whilst remaining melt-in-the-mouth. Or maybe it’s the flavours – served with earthy mushrooms and tomato to create a rustic, herby dish that you can imagine a farmer somewhere tucking into after a hard day’s work.
I’d love to have eaten it all. In fact I tried. But ended up taking the rest home with me in a doggie bag (like Spring, I hate waste) and it’s testament to how good it was that after trying a bite Jamie refused to allow the dogs to enjoy it and devoured it himself, straight off the bone.
My friend’s lamb was no mean portion either, cooked gloriously pink and served with the kind of tomatoes that you can never, ever find in supermarkets and should never even bother trying, with more fresh, green, and a herb-laced sauce that she assured me was the perfect pairing for the meat itself.
I’d love to indulge in more details, individual ingredients, and an in-depth analysis of every element of the dishes we had, but instead of doing what all good bloggers do I did what food-lovers used to do and allowed it to take me away from my real life, indulge in a few hours of good conversation and great food in a glorious setting.
Is that much help to you? Maybe not, if you want to know exactly how everything was cooked and what was in it then carry out a scientific analysis of whether that’s enough to get you to London. But perhaps the fact it made me put my phone away and enjoy a lunch that was somehow as great as some of the nicer restaurants I’ve been to whilst also feeling as simple as it gets is enough for you.
Either way, it’s enough for me to know I’ll definitely be heading back to Spring when I can.
I was meeting a contact for my day job at Spring. She paid, but that was nothing to do with the restaurant itself, who had no idea I’d be writing something on it.