“Running… Running uphill…” (Rabbit, Run by John Updike, 1961). After a Taits (our new fav Reims bubbles) pre party, it might be past Mercury Retrograde and Wolf Moon is just a memory yet we’re still running the roads. “Oh dear! Oh dear! We sha’n’t be too late!” We’re off to the wonderland that is the Sussex-farm-to-King’s-Road-fork Rabbit restaurant. “Spring, fall, summer, autumn: a life as well as a year has its seasons.” (Rabbit, Run, once more). For fork’s sake, a menu, too, has its seasons, especially when the owners tell, “We use all things wild, foraged and locally grown, including sustainable livestock from the Gladwins’ family farm in West Sussex. We call this ‘local and wild’.” We’re local and we’re wild.
They’ve more to say, “We grow and produce a range of award winning wines in our very own Nutbourne Vineyards. The 10 hectares of landscape are carefully looked after to preserve the natural habitat. We grow Bacchus, Riesling family varietals, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. We produce 40,000 bottles each year. We like our customers to enjoy a bottle of Nutbourne Wine in the spirit of ‘what grows together goes together’.”
Keeping it savoury we chase in hot and cold pursuit: mushroom marmite éclairs, egg confit, cornichon; whipped cod roe, crisp bread, English caviar; baked truffle Tunworth, caraway crisp bread, beetroot and pear chutney; grilled leek hearts, sesame yoghurt, truffle, seed clusters, chicory. Big seasonality on small plates. Restauranteur brothers Gladwin – Gregory, Oliver and Richard – clearly know their spring onions and winter truffle.
Rabbit is carefully casual with a haphazard picture hang on the exposed brick walls and the odd bit of taxidermy in between. Something resembling a cattle grid droops from the corrugated metal ceiling. Or maybe it is a cattle grid. This restaurant is a celebration of rustic farmhouse dining with urban views. At one end of the simple L shape – this is no rabbit warren – is the frenetic King’s Road. At the other end, a picture window frames Burnsall Street with its boxy dormered Dutch gabled Marseille pantile roofed Juliet balconied chamfered bayed sun kissed pastel coloured townhouses. Clientele are well heeled, literally; this is after all the fashionista friendly St Luke’s Parish. Bunny Rogers would approve.
Hare today, gone tomorrow. Rabbit has been a King’s Road fixture for eight years now but other London establishments haven’t survived so long. Shrimpy’s at King’s Cross, was, admittedly a pop up, a meantime use on a development site overlooking the canal at Granary Square. A petrol filling station was rapidly converted into a deconstructivist seafood restaurant offering the best seabass ceviche and plantains that 2012 London had to offer. Like most hotel restaurants the top floor of the London Hilton on Hyde Park has had several reboots. Its currently Galvin at Windows is named after Chef Patron Chris Galvin. Critic Jonathan Meades reviews its predecessor Windows on the World in The Times Restaurant Guide 2002:
“Jacques Rolancey, the Lyonnais Chef, is truer to his native cooking that he is to the imperatives of international hotel practice. His lack of fancy is remarkable. Flavours are confidently unexaggerated. Scallops with white truffle and balsamic vinegar are excellent. Cannelloni is stuffed with a light spinach and herb mixture sauced with a vegetable jus…” We’re up for a bit of channelling John Updike’s character Rabbit. We’re running, always running, into the light, that eternally focused light.
Meanwhile, there’s a narcissistic golden rabbit on the loose in County Tyrone.