We turned up at One-O-One in two quite different states of mind. Although we were both quite freezing from the fierce chill that October seemed to blowing about everywhere, I was largely quite relaxed having had a pleasant day at work, whilst my better half had experienced one of those hellish days at the office, filled with stress, frustration and a good helping of tension. Now, this precarious state of being can sometimes be exacerbated by snooty staff at posh restaurants, so imagine the relief when we realised One-O-One wasn’t going to be one of those places. It looks the part, with its Knightsbridge address and smart, attentive staff, but it thankfully doesn’t step into the realms of pretension.
We were ushered into our plush seats, tempted with bread and refreshments and left to catch our breath from the day’s events. Now, bread rolls are not featured on the menu. They are served up, as with most restaurants, as a little nibble to accompany your meal. Unless the bread is to die for, it’s usually wise not to consume more than one small roll, otherwise you run that awful risk of filling up on wheat, instead of the fantastic menu that sits before you. The rolls were good, but the menu looked better so I was hell bent on reserving space for the meal ahead. But then I tasted the butter. Two types: a seaweed offering which was a little salty, even for my Eastern European palette, and an unsalted butter, which was so tempting in its unadulterated state, that I reached for a second roll. My partner, who was still suffering from post-work stress, waded his way through four rolls, a little seaweed butter and a lot of the pure stuff. It was then that the waiter came to take our wine order. “What would you like?” he asked us. “What would you choose…” asked my other half, “if you’ve had a really bad day, and you just want to sit there with a good bottle of wine and relax, and not be stressed, and relax…did I say relax already?” He looked searchingly at the waiter, who just smiled and said, “I will bring you something sir.” Off he went, and back he came, with the knowing smile and a bottle of Riesling Spätlese, 2005. “It’s quite a sweet wine, but it’s what I really enjoy myself after a hard day”, he said, and poured our glasses full of the clean, fresh, sweet wine. A few mouthfuls later, the other half morphed into a relaxed version of his former self and announced that he “loved this place” and “loved this wine.”
Although the butter was good, and the wine fantastic, One-O-One is not really about either: it’s about the fish. The quality of it, the inventiveness of it, and the obvious love of it, at this West London restaurant are what make the menu at One-O-One such a pleasure. Head chef Pascal Proyart, has laid the menu out into four themes: Low Tide And Wonderful Discovery, Delicacies From The Shore And Beyond, High Tide With Its Exceptional Sea Fishing, and The Goodness Of The Sea And Earth. From these four detailed themes, you pick a selection of “petit plats”. Don’t dare call it “tapas”, as you’re likely to get a politely scathing look, but it operates similarly, in that you choose a selection of dishes. Depending how hungry you are, and whether you fancy fish through-and-through, you simply choose around three dishes (four if you’ve starved the rest of the day), and wait to be wowed.
We opted for two dishes from the lighter offerings of Low Tide And Wonderful Discovery, in the shape of Three Tsarkaya Oysters from Cancale, and the Red Tuna Tartar with Soft Shell Crab Tempura, Sushi Rice and Wasabi Sorbet. Before our dishes arrived, we tucked into an amuse bouche of crab croquettes, complete with aioli and balancing shards of finely sliced salad. We paused for a few more sips of Riesling and got a little speechless when our first dishes arrived. The oysters, set on a layer of crushed ice, came dressed in three separate ways: almost nude with a shallot vinaigrette, slightly covered with pear sorbet and vodka foam, and dressed to the nines with a tempura coating, not to mention the wasabi and soya pipettes ready for injection into said sea creature. Before my experience at One-O-One, I would have said that I like oysters. This menu made me fall in love with them – the almost nude was simple and divine, the tempura-coated number, complete with pipette was very, very good – but it was the pear sorbet and vodka foam that worked seriously well. The vodka and pear worked brilliantly together and escorted their shelled under-water friend to a higher level. The tuna was a beautifully created dish, accompanied by some wasabi sorbet so perfectly created, we were loath to deconstruct it with our forks. The tuna tartar tasted fresh and good, but by then it was too late – I had fallen in love with my oysters.
Next we ate our way through the veritable likes of the Dover Sole, with Tsarkaya Oysters Béarnaise, Pommes Rissolées, Forest Mushrooms, and Candied Tomato and the Pan-Roasted Norwegian White Halibut, with Langoustine Dumpling and Paimpol Coco Beans Truffle Cassoulet. We finished our savoury dishes with the Norwegian Red King Crab and Roasted Anjou Squab Pigeon, with Shallot Confit, and Ruby Port Jus, and the Scottish Beef Fillet Cooked Lyonnaise, with Rich Red Burgundy Sauce, Morels Mushrooms Duxelles, and Sautéed Potatoes. The king crab and pigeon were good, but the steak excelled. My other half shot the waiter a look of appreciation for his recommendation of the steak, and the waiter shot back a knowing smile.
Besides the welcome relief of unpretentious staff, One-O-One offers its diners something else. The staff here know the menu like the back of their hand – they are knowledgeable, efficient and are pleased to see you enjoying what the restaurant has to offer. Don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations here. Their choices, from the sublime steak and oysters, to the fruity Glen Carlou Shiraz that accompanied our cheese board, will undoubtedly deliver.
One-O-One is currently offering diners lunch for £19. This special offer includes three “petit plats”. Please check with One-O-One direct to verify availability for this offer.
One-O-One: 101, William St, Knightsbridge, London, SW1X 7RN
Tel: 020 7290 7101
Reviewer: Helenka Bednar