Rrestaurants like the one today always worry me before I go. Maybe it’s their sense of gentle righteousness that puts me on the back foot. Basically, we all wish planet Earth didn’t die, smothered in an oily sheet of fire littered with drowned polar bears, but how many of us are actually doing anything really useful about it?
Then comes a place like Chantelle Nicholson’s Apricity, made up of sweet, thoughtful, industrious types who really care about how the restaurant scene affects our planet. Suddenly terms like hyperseasonal, foraged, zero waste, and low intervention come into the ether, which are all nice concepts, of course, and then I’m nine dishes and someone explains the ass of a salvaged turnip fricassee , flashing submission as the waiter explains how the chef got up at dawn to drain the sap from the trees. And, yes, the fricassee tastes a bit fizzy, doesn’t it? That’s when I think guiltily of the punnet of Moroccan blueberries I ate that morning before throwing the plastic cardboard away for recycling, like some sort of planet-hating sociopath.
With Apricity, however, the evening is nothing like that. It’s an airy, stylish and cheerful venue in Mayfair with a menu that will delight vegetarians, but also meat and fish dishes that are certainly not an afterthought. The vegetarian stars of the show, in my opinion, are the sweet and jammy Isle of Wight aubergine made even more glorious with a bright green zhoug and roasted almond butter, and the miso roasted cabbage with cream of smoked hemp and molasses that’s drenched in an umami sauce you’ll want to throw your finger over to scrape up every last drop.
Plus, they’re delivered without a sermon or soliloquy, because Apricity kind of gets away with it. They’re just good people in nice uniforms running a very fancy Mayfair restaurant and serving delicious things that have minimal impact on our future. If you go, order the London Red Butter Salad, which, let’s face it, isn’t anything fancy, but is actually a fairytale arrangement of pond green leaves, lettuce and crispy kale, all put together in a flower and sprinkled with miso aioli and cashew nuts. The dish seems eerily otherworldly, as if it could float and speak for itself.
For the record, I took with me a long-suffering meat lover, Charles, who is still mentally scarred at the time I took him to Beetroot Sauvage in Edinburgh and fed him chilli sin carne two meters from a woman in camel toe yoga pants. How he suffers for my art. Yet we have spoken several times of Apricity since our visit, of the good Hollis Mead salted butter sourdough and the excellent grilled sea trout accompanied by pink fir potatoes with brown butter, and have agreed to return there for some time. for the tasting menu. In fact, although there was meat on the menu in the form of Devon pork belly with kimchi and cull lace ewes (mutton for you and me) with spicy chickpeas, we didn’t order them , as the other dishes instinctively felt better. Maybe in the near future we’ll come up with a good working name for this burgeoning new genre of vegetarian restaurants with meat, but nothing quite sums it up yet – the word “flexitarian” makes me cringe. , while “semi-vegetarian” does not. it’s not quite enough.
Semantics aside, Apricity is a restaurant dedicated to making vegetables the star of the show, a skill we’ve never really mastered in this country. Yes, there are oysters, but you enjoy the black pearl mushrooms that accompany them, seasoned with XO sauce, Flanders wheat and wild garlic. There’s a baby kale salad with hemp tahini and crispy onions that’s a purely enjoyable way to get one of your five a day. I drank kombucha, which is my idea of a party these days (they do it themselves, of course), but they’ll also get you gloriously drunk with a sloe vodka spritz or a beetroot Remy based on cognac, beetroot and raspberry liqueur.
We ate early on a Saturday night and left before the chihuahua at the next table even looked like she was spending the night, but not before we had sniffed a cabbagenut – the clue is in the title , half choux half apple donut and double cream, plus, because two puddings are my talent, the Esmeralda milk chocolate mousse with miso and brown sugar cream, which was really too delicate to share, so I didn’t didn’t do. Dine out, save the planet, and be a superhero while eating copious amounts of smothered brown butter on potatoes. Apricity, you are too good and really delicious.
Apricity 68 Duke Street, London W1, 020-8017 2780. Open Tuesday to Friday, lunch 12pm-2.15pm (2.45pm Friday), dinner 5.30pm-9pm (last orders); Sat noon-9 p.m. Around £65 a head à la carte; five-course tasting menu £65, seven-course £80; set lunch £35, all plus drinks and service
The next episode of the third series of the Grace’s Comfort Eating podcast is released on Tuesday, May 24. Listen to it here.