Matthew Ryle at LAYLOW, Notting Hill should certainly not lay low

06 Aug 2019

Let me start by expressing my great love for Masterchef. It is a show I associate with love because I believe it was the catalyst for my lifelong love affair with food, and because everyone who I have watched it with are people that I have loved. It moves me when chefs create masterful food that stems from their love of cooking, and it moves me when I find out that, because of Masterchef, they get the spotlight they deserve. Matthew Ryle stood out like a sore thumb from the very start of Masterchef: The Professionals 2018 for the sheer incongruity of his youthful, bright-blue-eyed face and the absolutely phenomenal and almost faultless nature of his work. When I found out he was doing a residency at private members club LAYLOW near Westbourne Park, I simply had to see for myself.

“Leave the glove compartment open so that burglars know I have nothing to steal” grumbled my father as he parked down the road from LAYLOW London, fully alert to the fact that the area is, well, just a little bit bleak. I internally rolled my eyes. Papa bear is a very fussy, very opinionated and very seasoned man who only offers praise in minuscule droplets and only when it is well-deserved. Trust me. An internal sigh of relief, as green velvet curtains pulled back to reveal the gorgeous restaurant, passed between the two of us. Designed by Bella Freud, the easy elegance of the space is fortified by pink velvet booths, straw monkeys hanging from chandeliers and a buzzing open kitchen. A setting where celebrities and something-listers can easily lay low, as it were.

Matthew Ryle’s menu, which he later told us he crafted alongside LAYLOW, reads like a directory of lightness and freshness. Our padrón peppers (£5.50) arrived; currently in season and warm in temperature, the earthy taste of their tender flesh was uplifted by a squeeze of the Sicilian lemon, an appendage that greatly pleased my hard-to-please dining companion. A punchy start to the meal, this was then followed by the Leafy radish & cods roe (£5). Initially poking at it because we thought it was our burrata, it helplessly surrendered to our strikes with its airy, whipped texture. Pick up one of those radishes with gargantuan leaves attached to it, Peter Rabbit-style, dip them into the roe, and you’ll experience a rather satisfying combination of land-meets-sea.

The star of the starters? Undeniably the burrata itself, which in fact didn’t look as much like burrata as the cod’s roe. The Burrata, peach, mint & almonds (£10) comes at a price, but heaven’s alive, it was good. Cupped in radicchio, the burrata was served with wedges of charred peach, wisps of mint and shards of almond. It was a sensational medley and a welcome departure from a classic burrata dish. “Roll it all up in the radicchio like a kebab” advised my content Dad, one cocktail down and much less concerned about the fate of his Mercedes (spoiler: it was fine).

The main course options offer 3 vegetarian, 3 fish and the 4 meat options – an accommodating arrangement for today’s multitude of ‘arians’. Truffle-obsessed, I had to try the vegetarian Mushrooms, crispy hen’s egg & truffle (£17) along with the Roast turbot, pine nuts & cauliflower (£22), while my old man opted for the Sirloin steak & peppercorn sauce (£24). Yes, I had two mains.

With Lauren Hill’s Ex-Factor as our soundtrack, we ceremoniously cut into the truffle-dusted crispy hen’s egg, its yolk pouring unctuously over the rich assembly of mushrooms. It was glorious. While I’m on a roll with truffle porn, I must mention the Roast galette potatoes & summer truffle (£7) which was, hands down, the tastiest vegan dish I have ever had. Crispy at the top and filled with fluffy potato slices layered with truffle cream (made with cashew), it was sprinkled with generous helpings of summer truffle. Just heroic.

Beautifully cooked and crusted with a layer of pine nuts, the meaty yet light turbot was topped with salty samphire and served with a delightfully smooth cauliflower puree and charred cauliflower. On the turf side of things, the sirloin sat pretty in perfectly pink slices with minimal fat (boo), ready to be slathered in the glistening gravy it was served with. The marvellous, simple pleasure of pouring it was not lost on us.

For ‘pudding’, as Ryle himself so charmingly called it when he came and spoke to us, we opted for the Set vanilla custard with a cluster of fresh raspberries, cradled in a crunchy brandy-snap. The sharp raspberries offset the cold creaminess of the custard, while the texture of the brandy snap lent a satisfying crunch to the delicate dessert.

And so came the end. Mr. hard-to-please was pleased, and I was gushing. All foodie eyes should be on young Matthew Ryle as he drives towards opening his own restaurant sometime soon. Book me a reservation, Ryle. I’ll be there on opening night.

Ashiana Pradhan

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