I began my discovery of Portobello Road back in 2015, a hungry grad (in every sense of the word) looking to be inspired. Boom Burger would of course knock me for six inspired by the explosive flavours of the Caribbean, and I discovered the best Falafel I’ve eaten outside of Tel-Aviv at Falafel King (if you know you know). Some eight years later, and still hungry, I visited Fiend, the latest instalment by Chris Denney; not far from where the talented chef made his first mark as a purveyor of west London’s finest eating establishments 108 Garage and the supernova that was Southam Street.
Fiend serves both an a la carte menu and a six-course set tasting, with the option of paired wine selected by the equally talented Beth Brickenden. Dishes include inventive combinations like veal sweetbread, bulgogi, fermented cabbage, spring onion, or wagyu short rib, green tomato and belper knolle. There are still nods to Denney’s love of Asian ingredients and processes on dishes like burnt leek, goghujang and tarama.
Chris Denney brings a wealth of culinary experience to the role, having previously worked alongside the likes of Eric Chavot, John Campbell and Aaron Paterson in the UK, as well as Enrico Crippa at the three Michelin starred Piazza Duomo in Italy. His experience and skills are definitely showcased at Fiend, where Denney continues to push boundaries with his approach and interpretation of modern British food.
To start, we enjoyed a beautifully laminated brioche, with chicken liver parfait; unfathomably light yet unctuously indulgent – a look around the room revealed a consensus here; paired perfectly with a glass of English bubbles from Winston Estate – lent a gentle creaminess with yeasty aromas, and on the palette crisp green apples, which paired nicely with our second dish; white beetroot, apple, hazelnut and buttermilk.
It’s clear that seasonality is important to Denney when building his menu. New season asparagus, cured egg yolk, and sesame was next on the menu, beautifully enhanced by the rich umami flavours introduced by yolk and sesame; and paired exquisitely well with a glass of white burgundy charmingly dancing around our palettes, with a delicate hint of hazelnut on the nose.
Lamb heart agnolotti, kohlrabi and mustard dashi. A dish I never knew I needed. The dashi lent oodles of flavour and the pasta filling was rich and tender, an exquisite pairing that sung to the same hymn sheet as the wine, an intensely aromatic and silky Syrah. Next, an olive-fed duck leg was cooked to true perfection, the leg meat remained juicy, a real melt-in-the-mouth moment and again paired effortlessly well, with a glass of Pinot Noir.
Before pudding, a wonderfully fresh palate cleanser arrived, cucumber, dill, kalamansi (Filipino lime) – sweet and slightly bitter sorbet served its purpose and did so with a punch. Our last course saw crème caramel, rhubarb and marjoram – a perfect combination. A classic flipped on its head served alongside poached sweet rhubarb and earthy floral marjoram.
Chris Denney continues to raise eyebrows with his food. It’s clever, focused and very delicious. That elusive star that Denney deserves might just find a home at Fiend.
To discover more, visit fiend-portobello.com
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All imagery courtesy of Fiend.