I don’t tend to get very excited about eating at the same place as people off the telly. If my dinner guest points out Binky from Made in Chelsea I’m likely to reply “who from what now?” For this reason Cecconi’s is wasted on me, even if I do appreciate its crab ravioli. I’ve feigned interest at the sight of Liz Hurley’s ex-husband and couldn’t muster even that much enthusiasm for someone who may or may not have been Miley Cyrus.
The bloke at the table next to us at the new Hush near St Paul’s, though, piqued my interest. It was the Rt Revd, Rt Hon Richard Chartres, the bishop of London, who had made the short stroll from his office over the road (you know the one: big place, dome on the roof). A man of the cloth. What does the Rt Revd, Rt Hon Richard Chartres eat for dinner? Does he dine out every night or was this a special occasion?
The new Hush is a more informal variation of the long-established Mayfair Hush. The dining room is designed by Alex Michaelis, who is also responsible for the interiors of Soho House and Tom’s Kitchen. Everything is made of wood, but not in an offensive “look at me I’m so Scandinavian” way. It has low-hanging, feature light-bulbs that look like little rivulets of snot on the nose of a ruddy-cheeked child in an endearing Christmas scene, and blue banquettes that look cool but appear to have been designed so nobody could possibly be comfortable sitting on them.
The menu is divided into “starters”, “mains” and “lighter mains”. We went for three starters, two lighter mains (which were massive) and one main, plus sides. This is a lot of food. I felt guilty sitting next to the Rt Revd, Rt Hon Richard Chartres and ordering enough food to feed a table of six, while he contented himself with a reasonable portion, presumably mulling the plight of those less fortunate than ourselves while he ate it.
I had a chat with the owner, Jamie Barber, before the meal, which I loath doing, firstly because I’d rather not talk to anyone if I can help it and secondly because it makes it very awkward if I hate the restaurant, which is often, and I have to speak to them again at some point. Jamie was raving about his burger. It’s up there with the best burger in London, he reckons. Far better than Meat Liquor and better than Dirty Burger, too. Probably on a level with Patty&Bun. That’s quite a claim to make just before someone sits down to eat your burger.
So I was dreading the burger, because he was definitely going to come over and ask me how it was, and if it tasted like a shoe, I would have to say… “Well, Jamie, actually, it tasted like a shoe”, and that would be awkward. We’d both look down at our shoes, then realise what we were looking at… It doesn’t bear thinking about.
Of course, I could always lie, but madness lies that way, especially if the chef takes your desire to avoid confrontation as a personal slight and tears you a new one on Twitter, a la Claude Bosi, who put the fear of god into one blogger to such an extent that he quit blogging for good (incidentally, if you’re reading this Claude, I really like Hibiscus). I have only once gotten into a Twitter argument with a chef. It was over an octopus. Nobody comes out of these things well, although, for the record, I was right about his stinking octopus.
Thankfully, the burger was very good. If you were making a list of top burgers, it would get a mention, although not quite challenge for first place. The patty is a combination of rump and chuck steak, beautifully pink in the middle and dripping with flavour. The bun was a bit of a letdown, though. Tom Byng who owns Byron once told me he’s tried 35 different buns; getting the right one is no easy task. The Hush burger is served with a completely superfluous mini Caesar salad, although this comes on a separate dish, so you can just ignore it until someone takes it away.
So, when Jamie asked me how the burger was, I nodded and smiled and said: “Very nice, thank you,” and it wasn’t awkward at all.
He also insisted we try the cocktails, which I usually agree to (it’s a tough life) and then don’t mention because, honestly, cocktails taste the same wherever you are. These ones, though, were unusually good and incredible value at £6.25 each.
The crab with avocado starter was excellent: a hearty portion that tasted like it had just been fished from the sea. The tiger prawns were nicely presented but were overpowered by a chilli and ginger dressing and a little over-cooked. El Pye disagreed, saying I should write something nice about them, but she’s not a restaurant critic, so what the hell does she know?
The pulled pork Yorkshire pudding really deserves a section of the menu to itself: “heavy starters”, perhaps. It’s pretty good in a nostalgic, reminds-you-of-your-grandma way, although it is bloody massive for a starter (at £9 it’s also expensive).
Of the lighter mains, the lobster roll was tasty in the way anything covered in mayonnaise is tasty, although there’s an admirable amount of crustacean for £15. The crispy duck salad was a low-point. Not of the meal, you understand; of my life. It was incinerated; tough and fibrous – lower quality than even a bog-standard Chinese take-away.
I’m not even going to tell you what our bill came to, as it’s not in the slightest bit indicative of what you would pay if you just popped in for your dinner. Instead, I’m going to tell you roughly what the Rt Revd, Rt Hon Richard Chartres and his guest’s bill would have come to: about £40 for food plus £18 for a reasonably-priced bottle of wine. He seemed happy.
First published in City A.M.