THE Penny Black stamp is an iconic symbol of British history so to name a restaurant after it means you have a lot to live up to.
While the world's first adhesive postage stamp may have only been in circulation for a year the early signs are that the restaurant of its namesake – which recently opened in Chelsea's busy Fulham Road - should be around for a lot longer if it continues to serve up exceptionally good food.
From the moment you enter the door of this classically designed restaurant you get the feeling that you are in for a memorable gastronomic experience.
The décor of white, burgundy and black is clean, crisp and simple. There are some interesting touches of art dotted around on the walls – sheep and postage stamps - and the subtle lighting gives a relaxed feel to the restaurant.
The menu is based around great British food and certainly delivers an interesting and varied range with the aim to source as many of the fresh ingredients as possible from British farmers and in suppliers.
Favourites like Toad in the Hole, Cottage Pie and Torbay Sole appear on the menu along with the less tried and tested Monkfish cheek salad and Fillet of Turbot.
Although it had only been open a few days on the night I visited already there was a healthy buzz and atmosphere in the restaurant where your every need is looked after by the highly attentive and professional team of staff.
The joy of a good restaurant is having to deliberate over the menu before ordering and this we did while enjoying a glass from a bottle of Barbara d'Alba “Sucule” Domini Villac Lanata 2007, a full bodied Italian red with a rich, spicy taste from an impressive and varied wine list.
I started with the Pig's head terrine with sour dough toast and pear chutney (£8) and my partner had the Scallops with fried potatoes, crispy bacon and mixed salad (£10).
Both dishes were divine and delivered on taste and presentation
The terrine was moist and subtle with hints of fresh vegetables running through and a casing of cabbage. The crunchy bread and slightly sweet chutney perfectly complimented it as did the well dressed leaves.
Likewise the delicate meaty scallops, served with their vibrant roe, delivered all they promised, as the dish was pulled together by the salty bacon and delicious bed of waxy potatoes.
The Penny Black's signature dish is Beef Wellington and at £29 it needs to be good.
Well, it was better than good. The medium rare beef, as recommended, was perfectly cooked, the pastry light and the mushroom layer was earthy and wonderful The well seasoned potato and celeriac bake and crisp roast carrots and broccoli made for a dish to remember.
The seared Venison with Jerusalem artichokes and duck fat chips (£27) proved an irresistible choice for me.
Likewise I was not disappointed as the my taste buds were left tingling by the mixture of flavours. The 'pink' cooked venison melted in the mouth, the crispy chips were divine and the delicate flavour and slight sweetness of the artichokes and crunch of the cabbage pulled everything together. The dish was served with a rich beefy sauce in a side boat that added a further depth to the flavours.
After these two stunning main courses the deserts needed to be exceptional to rival them.
There was nothing to fault with the mixture of ice creams (£6) or the Chocolate fondant (£5) which was rich, dark and gooey and came with ice cream and a drizzle of raspberry sauce – they were just not truly loveable dishes to finish off the evening.
The Penny Black is a stunning addition to the Fulham Road both in terms of cuisine and style and a great example of everything that is good about well sourced and presented British food.