Featured Restaurant: Friends

21st June 2019

11 High Street • Pinner • HA5 5PJ • 020 8866 0286

Reviewed by Lisa Botwright

Pinner’s historic high street is an eclectic mix of shops and eateries that pave the way to the medieval church that makes a striking focal point at the brow of the hill. Quite the prettiest and quirkiest building of them all is a 500-year old cottage diminutively nestled between its taller neighbours, lending it a fairy tale air.

Behind this Tudor facade, the enchantment continues. We enter a restaurant that’s warm and welcoming, and notwithstanding the immaculate white tablecloths, has a cosy higgledy-piggledy feel from the beams and low ceiling. A diverse mixture of art on the walls adds to the charm.

The à la carte menu is pleasingly concise (I’m always suspicious of how good the quality can be when there’s an over-long and meandering menu); and has a good selection of meat, fish and vegetarian options to choose from. The dishes are modern European, with a definite French slant.

My husband (H) and I order Chicken Liver Parfait with pickled cucumber, cauliflower and shallots, red radishes and toasted brioche, plus Asparagus Bavarois with pea purée, fresh peas, enoki mushrooms, crispy quail eggs and dill oil to start. While we wait, we’re treated to a divine little amuse bouche of cauliflower and truffle purée on black pepper rice cakes. The distinctive mild oniony-heat of the cauliflower works so well with the peppery base. The call of a basket of just-baked, properly-hot bread rolls is also hard to resist.

All my favourite flavours arrive on a plate at once accompanying the creamy, light-as-a-feather bavarois. It’s a summer symphony of crisp radishes, fresh peas, asparagus shavings and amazing mushrooms that are cold and slightly pickled and make a nice earthy contrast. Atop the artfully arranged heap of vegetables are two baby scotch eggs, still slightly warm, with perfect soft yolks and crispy breadcrumbs.

The chicken liver parfait is incredibly light, velvety and tasty too, and comes with crunchy pickled cauliflower, radish and cucumber. H’s only criticism is that the toasted brioche is too soft and sweet a choice of bread; something a little crustier might have worked better with such a creamy dish.

Next, H chooses Breast of Canard, carrot and orange purée, parisienne carrots, pak choy and duck leg croquette; while I opt for Fillet of Bass with fennel purée, shallot crisps and wild garlic oil. The succulent loin of duck is cooked pink; along with the purée, it’s a heart-meltingly sweet, soft and delicious dish. The requisite crunch comes from the croquette: tender, slow-cooked meat wrapped in a crispy crust, with a delicious and unusual flavour that I recognise but can’t place. My dense and meaty fillet of fish, seared skin-on, is presented exquisitely within surrounding concentric circles of contrasting colour, made up of the white purée, the brown jus and the vivid green oil. As the flavours run into each other, the result is something lovely.

We finish on a savoury note, enjoying a cheese board of stilton, cheddar and brie, and the chef’s grape chutney.

Owner-chef Stelian suddenly appears in the dining room, and it causes a mild stir. He circulates politely and accepts his customers’ feedback warmly. When he reaches us, we quiz him about his celebrity mentor, Gordon Ramsey, and he kindly invites us to try his favourite nightcap, Licor 43. (Of course, it’s delicious: notes of vanilla and other aromatic herbs.)

But while I have his attention, all that’s on my mind is… what was in that duck croquette? (Answer: cassis. Very clever; very clever indeed).

STARTERS: £5.75-£10.95 • MAINS: £18.00-£26.75
DESSERTS: £6.50-£9 • HOUSE WINE: £24

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