There is an argument that you shouldn’t mess around with caviar. A mother-of-pearl spoon, a few blinis dabbed with crème fraîche, champagne or vodka according to choice, and that should be that. The fiercest of purists would even dispense with the blinis, maintaining that caviar is the reason the human hand has a crease between the thumb and the index finger.
To those traditionalists, I say go to Bellamy’s, the delightfully francophile brasserie on Bruton Place. In the 1980s, proprietor Gavin Rankin was the world’s youngest accredited caviar dealer, so he knows whereof he speaks: try the caviar d’Aquitaine at the bar with a glass of über-pure Belenkaya vodka, then settle in for West Mersea oysters and a spot of lunch.
For a completely different caviar experience, trundle around Berkeley Square to Novikov, where the Asian restaurant features roast Peking duck with its classic accompaniments of pancakes, cucumber, spring onion and hoisin sauce… and a mound of Novikov’s own caviar, a hybrid of beluga and Siberian sturgeon. My view, sacrilegious though it may be to some, is that featuring caviar as part of a dish is fine, as long as you don’t cook it – finishing creamy sauces with dollops of caviar is très passé – and as long as the other ingredients harmonise with those precious eggs.
Take Bibendum chef/patron Claude Bosi’s masterful dish of caviar with tiny dice of smoked sturgeon (which makes perfect sense) and a limpid disc of jellied duck consommé, over which the caviar is spread before being dotted with spring onion cream. The caviar is Daurenki, from the famous Parisian caviar house of Petrossian; an upgrade to its Tsar Imperial Ossetra is possible too.
Over at The Greenhouse, chef Alex Dilling concurs with Bosi about the wisdom of pairing caviar with its mother fish: his smoked sturgeon mousse is topped with excellent N25 caviar (named not after a London night bus, but the latitude of China’s Yunnan Plateau, where the fish are farmed). A delicate crab salad, scented with ginger and dill, lurks below.
Dilling has more tricks up his sleeve. Rillettes of smoked salmon are paired with caviar and sharpened with the citric bite of sorrel, while splendidly fatty tuna belly is lavished with caviar and served with tomato and koshihikari rice, like divinely deconstructed sushi. A veteran of Caviar Russe, New York, he was chef de cuisine when the Madison Avenue restaurant, with its wonderfully de trop decor, was awarded a Michelin star six years ago.
Or you might try The Northall at the Corinthia Hotel, where chef André Garrett, once of Galvin and Cliveden, offers King’s (the great London caviar house) sublime beluga and oscietra caviars by the tin, the latter atop a glorious snack of crisped brioche, egg yolk and Rhug Estate venison tartare. Messing about with caviar? If it tastes this good, I couldn’t care less.