Lorne review: generosity on a plate
Victoria's latest restaurant opening brings fine food and wine to an unloved part of London
Part transit hub, part building site, Victoria is an odd part of London at the best of times and odder still on the evening of the Westminster terror attack. What's disconcerting, though, is how unruffled it is by its proximity to the scene of the crime.
"We thought we might get a lot of cancellations," says the maitre d' at Lorne, on Wilton Street, "but everyone's turned up."
As well they might. The new restaurant arrives with a fine pedigree. Its owners, sommeliere Katie Exton and chef Peter Hall, worked together at The Square in Mayfair while before that, she was at Chez Bruce in Wandsworth Common and he was at Benu in San Francisco.
Their dining room, deep and narrow, is a less-than-ideal shape, but elegant, minimalist decor makes the best of it. Even so, it undersells the food.
My starter of quail, its skin crisp and flesh succulent, sits well on a bed of barley and mountain yam, but the cuttlefish, served with violet potatoes, pickled onions and romesco sauce steals the show.
I do better with the next course. My partner's hogget with sprouting broccoli, swede and anchovy is good, but not as gamey as I had expected - although later, when the plate has been cleared and the error cannot be rectified, he admits to having shared with me the least flavoursome cut of meat.
Never mind. My main is one of the best I've had. It's not just that the guinea fowl is precisely cooked, although it is, nor that it's full of flavour, like the Platonic ideal of a chicken. What sets it apart is the succulent alchemy set off by the boudin noir, mushroom puree and braised calcot - a Catalan vegetable halfway between a spring onion and a leek. The black pudding in particular imparts a beguiling creaminess.
The wine, a 2012 Chateau Villa Bel-Air, plays its part too. An artful recommendation from Exton, it's ripe enough for the hogget but light enough for the poultry - and benevolently priced at £36 a bottle.
With main courses peaking at £22 and the front-of-house staff's expertise and enthusiasm lightly worn and freely given, Lorne is, at heart, a generous restaurant, and as such is welcome in this part of town. Victoria needs a bit of love.