There are some places that are incredibly loved and well-known in their neighbourhoods yet somehow fly under the general radar. Odette’s in Primrose Hill is one such place. It is full of well-heeled locals, off-duty celebrities and those in the know, yet somehow its location keeps it tucked away from the rest of the hullabaloo of London.
I’ve come here a few times, both for work and for pleasure with my family. It is perfect for both watching the world go by with lovely pavement seating or hiding away from it in a private dining room. There is a kitchen table – literally a table in the kitchen – and a beautiful walled patio, festooned with simple white fairy lights.
Bryn Williams is the chef patron and owner, having taken over the property in 2008. Williams has worked with Marco Pierre White, Michel Roux and Chris Galvin, so there is no doubt that the quality of food here is excellent.
Menus are seasonal and constantly changing – but what I find so unexpected (and wonderful) is how affordable they are. If there is one thing you do not expect from Primrose Hill it is affordability. Their weekday lunch menu offers two courses for £13 and three for £15 and their early evening menu offers two courses for £17 and three for £20. It is remarkably good value. You pay more for dinner in a run of the mill pub or nasty restaurant chain. The à la carte isn’t much more expensive with mains averaging at about £22.
The excellent food is produced in a small but cheerful kitchen featuring a huge copper pot full of gently simmering chicken stock. Guests who book this are in the heart of the kitchen with the staff and are actively encouraged to help with the cooking of their own dinner. If you have an interest in the restaurant industry and want some hands-on experience this is a rather lovely way of doing it.
Williams himself is a cheerful, thoroughly Welsh chap, down to earth, kind enough to indulge me and listen to my very basic Welsh and hugely excited by the food they create in the kitchen.
And so he should be. The food they serve here uses seasonal produce from Welsh as well as local suppliers. The marinated scallop with pear, mooli and Carmarthen ham is a translucent dish of fresh, delicate flavours, and the glazed pork cheek with apple and lobster bisque is rich and creamy and the pork gloriously sticky.
The Dover sole grenobloise, with roast salsify and potted shrimp sauce was perfectly cooked, well balanced and not overly complicated. Then there is the smoked mash. Whatever you have, order this. Regardless of whether you need it, you have to have it. It is like bonfire night wrapped in butter and cream.
This is how neighbourhood restaurants should be. Busy, relaxed and reliably good. As we say in Wales, ardderchog (excellent).