bout midway by way of my solo lunch at Studio Frantzén in Harrods, nosiness led me into laughable calamity. Snooping round its lavish rooftop, I put my hand on a door and felt its guillotine-sharp edge slice into my palm. Blood sprang forth, paper napkins had been hurriedly administered, and there was a lot fuss within the soft-lit downstairs eating room because the gathered employees summoned a uniformed first support officer to log the incident and assess.
If elements of this job can typically really feel like garbage spycraft (and, particularly after I’m reserving beneath a pseudonym, it actually can) then this was my undoubted Johnny English second.
I’ll admit that that is an particularly baroque technique to open a evaluate. However it’s a second that serves a wider illustrative function. As a result of for all of the virtues of this place — which, considerably, is the primary London restaurant from Swedish chef and a number of Michelin star-holder, Bjorn Frantzén — my lasting sense was of a enterprise that, as evidenced by the calorie labelling on its menu and its tucked-away location amid forehead bars and racks of Louboutins, was chafing somewhat towards the company fussiness of its retail context. Studio Frantzén is gorgeously staged and technically spectacular. Even so, it struck me as someplace that didn’t at all times add as much as the sum of its beautiful particular person elements.
This isn’t to say that issues didn’t begin pleasantly. The multi-level area is the kind you wish to gobble you up. Flattering amber gentle, fluffy throw blankets, counter seating going through the thrumming kitchen and a big, woodcut-style mural girding the staircase all conjure a futurist log cabin. I started with heat laminated milk bread: a mega-croissant involving tearable, conjoined swirls of glistening viennoiserie, served with an ash-dusted pat of miso and honey butter. Veal tartare, hidden beneath a flurry of aged parmesan and accessorised with truffle aioli, pickled onions, shiitake and toasted almonds, was a compelling tussle between umami and jabbing acidity. Whacking curls of radicchio had been wearing an enjoyably narky, brow-beading sizzling sauce comprised of slow-roasted pumpkins.
It ought to be clear at this level that Frantzén’s lodestars are, usually, animal fat, New Nordic ideas and Asian flavour complexity. Although he made his identify initially in Stockholm, his empire now stretches to embody Singapore and Bangkok, and there’s an appealingly international eclecticism to his strategy. However the flip facet of this, with out the guiding handrail of a set menu, is the potential for a meal that feels often discordant. Crisp-charred broccolini in a molasses-thick eel sauce was implausible. But I’m undecided how excellent a match it was for the grilled salmon, dressed with finger limes that couldn’t totally stand up to a sea buckthorn beurre blanc’s wave of butter-forward richness.
And, in fact, all of that is haunted by the appreciable outlay. It’s not simply that the costs — £35 for the roasted cauliflower, £85 for grilled lobster with curry and brown butter hollandaise, £50 for the most cost effective wine from the leather-bound checklist — will at present make many recoil. It’s additionally that this strategy nudges Studio Frantzén into “special day splurge” territory for the overwhelming majority of us, and so we should choose it by that metric.
Veal tartare, hidden beneath aged parmesan, was a compelling tussle between umami and jabbing acidity
After the jokey first support man had given me a blue plaster, I polished off an After Eight tart — intelligent, if overly well mannered — and made my manner again into the brilliant maze of mini boutiques.
Commendably pitched on the center floor between tasting menu Michelin bait and a bistro for moneyed customers, Studio Frantzén as an alternative falls between two stools. Intricate, high-level and handsomely crafted, it’s, nonetheless, not the kind of singular vacation spot you’ll be imploring pals to dash throughout city to. It feels, in additional methods than one, like a really stunning concession.
Harrods Fifth Ground, 87-135 Brompton Highway, SW1X 7XL. Meal for 2 plus drinks about £270. Open Monday to Saturday, noon-11.30pm and Sunday, noon-10.30pm; harrods.com/eating places/studio-frantzen