What might your fantasy restaurant be like? You can cast aside the economic realities of running a place, wretched staffing problems, annoying customers and pesky critics
I don't suppose my own version is so rare. A little place with not too many covers to worry about, a few dab hands in the kitchen and a table where the patron (that's me) eats. The wine list would be simple but good, a few aromatic house whites, some classic reds (a French Chateau Figeac here, an Australian Yarra Yering there) and some cheeky pudding wines.
The menu would filled with some eclectic but solid dishes using British seasonal produce. And, of course, the menu would have a self-saucing chocolate fondant - served, a la Francais - after a small plate of little cheeses.
So I'm always intrigued to find somewhere that is nudging at my pointless dream. (The relentlessness of running a restaurant would force me to part with my dream after a couple of services). Which brings me to The Shed. This is a quaint little gaffe in Notting Hill. It nods at my dream with its smallish number of covers - 55 - a brilliant team in the kitchen, and a menu that combines British produce with serious un-flippant ingenuity.
On paper the place sounds ludicrous. Imagine if three Sloaney brothers gathered round the kitchen table of a farmhouse in a village called Nutbourne and cooked up a plan to open a restaurant in London that used the produce from the family farm.
You might not Adam and Eve that the idea would move beyond the fifth bottle of wine.
But cast aside such prejudice. For Richard, Oliver and Gregory Gladwin had that conversation and The Shed is the result. Richard is the manager, Oliver, the chef, and Gregory, the farmer.
The result of this unlikely sibling trio is food that is as delicious as the place is charming. And it sees The Shed is its finest incarnation yet.
I remember it from years ago when it was called The Ark. It was half the size and was literally a shed. There can't have been more than 25 covers but I can't remember the food. Then Jean Christophe Novelli took it over where, for what might be called a limited period, he spun sugar and turned out buttery Frenchness.
These days there is a little terrace at the entrance, the furniture is a deliberate hotch potch of stuff presumably picked up at reclamation and antique fairs. So there's a random collection of tables. I sat on some kind of high iron stool which looked incredibly uncomfortable but weirdly was quite the opposite.
The food is similarly foraged. Like the furniture, what is delivered is not necessarily what its maker intended, yet it is much the better for it.
So, for example, out comes broad bean humous. And you might scoff at this, boldly and not incorrectly stating that humous is made from chick peas, not broad beans. Yet, as I have now discovered and in news that will shock every Middle Eastern and Turkish humous habitué, humous should be made with broad beans.
In fact I think it is the only thing that broad beans should henceforth be used for. Broad beans have a cardboard texture and flat taste that in my view makes podding them all the more painful.
But if you can find someone to not just pod the beads, but to remove that little layer of skin and then mulch with garlic, tahini, crème fraiche, lemon juice and mint and you will be faced with a beautiful culinary revelation.
At The Shed the humous arrives with a novel kind of crisp bread and some chive flowers. It really is a wonderful thing. It's the sort of dish that makes me loathe Michelin. Innovative, delicious beautiful and totally off their fussy Franco-gastrophilanthropic radar. You see I don't think a heavy, cheap Samonsite suitcase-wielding Michelin inspector would allow themselves to set foot inside somewhere like this. Which is a shame as they might learn something.
They would learn about this new humous, and eat some lamb chips. This is lamb, roasted and torn off its bones and pressed into the size and shape of large chips. It's served with harissa and parsley. It's a deeply muttony (yes, muttony lamb) dish redolent of the best flavours you get in Morocco.
We had hake too. A lovely little piece of fish, cooked perfectly and that came with a new potato experience. They take Maris Pipers, roast them in their skins, scoop out the flesh and then mix with so much lemon juice that the potato curdles. The mixture is then tempered with rape seed oil. It's an incredible thing to do to a potato and the hake loves it.
We had some pigeon too, which we hadn't ordered. It was nicely pink and we ate a slice before having the rest boxed up to take away.
Puddings were clever little bits of inventiveness too. Remember the Walls Vienetta? An invented ice-cream cake with a clever name which made you think it was a mass-produced take on some Venetian dessert?
Well Walls made the whole thing up in an industrial kitchen. And now The Shed has added to the mythology by creating an even better restaurant version.
We also ate small bits of honeycomb crunch dipped in chocolate and served with light dollops of mascarpone.
The Shed is one of several places in London proudly defining modern British cooking. The Gladwin boys have done good. With The Shed neatly tucked under their belts, they'll grow and be big names. They have a new place called Rabbit set to open on the Kings Road. One day people will look back at the halcyon days of their early career when the brotherly threesome focussed asll their energies on this one little place. Get a table so you can tell people you were there when it started.