Heinz Beck’s new restaurant, Beck at Brown’s, has been highly anticipated. Each person I spoke to before my visit had a different Beck story; one said that ‘dinner at Apsley’s was the best dining experience’ they had ever had, and another raved about his Portuguese venture: Gusto by Heinz Beck. I too had my own story. Having visited the 3-Michelin star La Pergola in Rome for my birthday a couple of years ago, I was eager to revisit some of the signature dishes, like the fagotelli carbonara, that now also feature at Brown’s.
So, it was with eagerness that we left the London heatwave outside and entered the cool, bright dining room, with its large sash windows, polished floors, plush green banquets, and enviable tropical wallpaper. While this restaurant is very smart, the dining room is not as intimidating as its gilded Roman counterpart, reflecting a more casual approach. Here there’s no tasting menu, but rather an a la carte menu structured in a traditionally Italian way with a choice of dishes from Antipasti, Primi, Pesce, Carne and Dessert sections. Our waiter recommended that we try dishes from each section alongside paired wines.
From the antipasti section we first enjoyed the dressed crab. Served warm, the sweet crab taste was deepened with a rich tomato and crab oil. By contrast the dish was topped with a charred disc of romaine lettuce that pleasantly combined the tastes of fresh chlorophyll and smoky charcoal. Toasted pumpkin seeds, sprigs of chervil, red amaranth and wild flowers created texture and flecks of herbaceous flavour.
Our next seafood dish was the octopus salad. The octopus itself was slow braised making it soft, moist and perfectly cooked (no hint of rubberiness). Its robust flavour lent itself to the light and zesty accompaniments of tomato water gel, celery ribbons and vibrant slices of skinned vine tomatoes.
We then tried 2 very Roman pasta dishes, the first being Beck’s signature fagotelli carbonara, which we had the privilege of having at La Pergola 2 years ago. It was even tastier than I remembered. Each fagotello is packed full of rich, warm pecorino cheese sauce that bursts out as you chew (so make sure you eat them whole). These glossy, cheesy parcels are speckled with freshly grated pecorino, salty pork cheek (guanciale) and vivid, diced courgette.
Our second Roman pasta dish, spaghetti cacio e pepe, is a favourite of mine. It has deceptively simple ingredients (starchy pasta water, finely grated pecorino and an abundance of freshly ground pepper) that turn dry strands of spaghetti slick with a tangy, creamy sauce. However, this being Heinz Beck this simple dish is elevated with lime-marinated lobster tail (although the menu describes it as ‘scampi’, it’s like no scampi you’d find at your local pub).
The pan-fried Dover sole was a light and elegant dish, which showcased fantastic seasonal ingredients like morel mushrooms and white asparagus. The moist, plump sole was enhanced by fresh herbs and a light sauce.
While the sole was light and elegant, the roasted sea bass dish had big Sicilian flavours. As you might expect, the fillet was perfectly cooked and had a crisp, golden skin, but it sat on a pile of hearty caponata. While the caponata is traditional, the dish was topped with a decidedly modern puffed fish cracker flourish.
Our first meat dish was beautiful and colourful. A rose-pink veal with a green crust of pistachio and cheese. Underneath was a pile of soft, sweet braised onions that contrasted in taste and texture with the bitter purple leaves.
Fillet may be the priciest and most tender cut, but it’s seldom the tastiest. It lacks the marbled fat of other cuts that, when rendered down, produces a mouth-watering steak. Nevertheless, Beck has negated this, injecting flavour into the fillet by marinating it in soy. Accompanied by creamy and sharp horseradish mayonnaise, sweet onions and chicory leaves.
We were then treated to 3 desserts. The first, a deeply chocolatey tart, served with a boozy slap-in-the-face rum and raisin ice cream.
Next we had the affogato tiramisu. It’s tiramisu, but not as we know it. Incredibly light and silky smooth, this was our favourite.
The final dessert looked like a rock pool, with its accompaniments of vivid green pistachio sponge and candied pistachio rocks. The raspberry gratin was a light, custard dome that concealed a warm raspberry mix inside, contrasting with the quenelle of cooling and intensely flavoured almond ice cream.
We knew before we arrived that we would have a great evening. The care shown in each ingredient translated into fantastic flavours, while the apparent simplicity of the dishes belied their depth and complexity. I must have been to nye on 57 varieties of restaurants in my time. But this is the only Heinz I’m interested in.
Beck at Brown’s Hotel
Albemarle Street, London, W1S 4BP