Stephanie Brookes, BBC Radio London food expert, offers her pick of an eating establishment for this month, Skylon at the Royal Festival Hall.
If I was to pick one restaurant that we all need to discover over the next month, Skylon would be my definitive choice. Now, there is a reason for this, not least the arrival of newly-appointed executive chef, Helena Puolakka, but on an entirely pragmatic level, the dining room lends itself to what we all crave during these winter months: light.
One of the many highlights of this restaurant is its floor-to-ceiling windows which provide a continual draw for first-time diners. In these gloomy, shorter winter days, this wow-factor aspect of Skylon could almost be prescribed as a holistic necessity. Just sitting with endless views over the South Bank lifted my spirits no end and instantly put me into a better frame of mind. And that’s even before the starters arrived.
Pan fried quail, confit leg and sweetcorn purée - Photo copyright: Stephanie Brookes
As a now semi-regular to the restaurant, I was intrigued to see the newly revamped menu, courtesy of Helena. Renowned for her superlative modern cuisine, she has worked with some of the world’s leading chefs, including Pierre Koffmann and Gordon Ramsay, throughout her twenty-two years in the industry. In her new role, Helena draws on her Finnish roots to bring unique Scandinavian ingredients and techniques to the Skylon kitchen.
The first menu choice was an easy pick as a lover of game: Pan fried quail, confit leg and sweetcorn purée. The artfully-presented plate was an immediate stand-out, not least for the playfully-presented purée. The quail, with its rich gamey flavours, was perfectly partnered with the mellow creaminess of the sweetcorn and the delightfully tart juniper sauce.
This was followed by a classic dish of Chicken ballotine, served with girolles, turnips and a vin jaune sauce. As anticipated, the quality of the ingredients shone through with a tender, velvety chicken and a perfectly rich and syrupy vin jaune sauce. The generous scattering of girolles added a satisfying earthy note, superbly matched with the creaminess of the puréed turnips. Quite simply, the most elevated comfort food you could wish for. Perfect winter feasting.
To round off the meal, Blackcurrant, Greek yoghurt, crystallised chocolate with sweet wine foam that felt like an altogether healthier, final option. At first sight, you are met with an unexpected presentation: a bowl of gleaming white foam, which while not immediately appetising, is certainly intriguing. As the components mix together, the vibrant purple hue of the blackcurrants come to the fore: it’s a mouthful of the softest, cloud-like yoghurt with a satisfying burst of sweet blackcurrant, and a final gratifying crunch from the crystallised chocolate. It was an immediate highlight of the meal. I’m aware with the ever-changing seasonal menu at Skylon, this dessert is not likely to appear on the menu again any time soon. If only the kitchen would allow the occasional request!
Skylon - Photo copyright: Stephanie Brookes
It’s now my third visit to Skylon and it has never once disappointed. From the moment you arrive, the relaxed, yet scrupulous service is assuredly brilliant. I always think the better the service the more I can truly enjoy the meal to its fullest. Skylon is now firmly in that exclusive club of restaurants where I feel confident knowing all future visits will be as seamless as the last.
Royal Festival Hall, London SE1 8XXTelephone:
020 7654 7800