16-18 Beak St
London W1F 9RD
BY NEAL MARTIN | SEPTEMBER 22, 2023
red peppers with squid
Dory (for two) with wood-fried rice, lettuce and anchovies
with blackberries and a light custard cream
Madeira Branco 90
a mountain. The higher, the better. I’m obsessed. Whenever Mont Blanc shows its
snow-capped face on the horizon as I drive up the RN74 in Burgundy, I cannot
avoid returning its distant gaze - hazardous, given I should really be looking
at the oncoming traffic. It’s because I was brought up in Essex, a county
afflicted with S.C.D. - serious contour deficiency. Essex's highest “summit” is
a pathetic 147m and requires neither oxygen canisters nor sherpas.
The open kitchen at Mountain. Sorry, I couldn’t move the pillar, but Tomos Parry is standing just to the right.
caught wind that Anglesey-born chef Tomos Parry planned to open a new
restaurant called “Mountain”, well, I could not quell my excitement. Was Parry
about to open at the top of Mt. Snowdon…sorry…Yr Wyddf to give it its newly-minted
and unpronounceable Welsh name? Sadly not. Mountain is in flat-as-a-pancake
Soho, a couple of minutes trot from Piccadilly in a former burger joint. Title
aside, my excitement was fuelled by Parry’s first restaurant, Brat,
what many consider London’s most significant restaurant opening in recent years.
Brat’s whole turbot is already a culinary legend. Since Brat opened its doors in
2018, Parry’s career has soared, thankfully, without the need for endless
television appearances on Masterchef or yet another cookery. Instead, he simply
operates the stove at all times to ensure every dish meets his standards. His
take on Basque cuisine intermixed with his Welsh roots and utilizing wood fire was
inspired and earned the respect of critics, fellow chefs and, judging by
waiting lists, loyal customers. There must have been Everest-high expectations
for what is surely the opening of 2023, and when The Times’ Giles Coren gushes
that “The Most Exciting New Restaurant This Year” when we’re only halfway
through it, well, it was time to find out.
is a spacious restaurant occupying the ground floor and basement of the
red-brick corner building. The ground floor houses the open kitchen, so open
that you could literally just walk in and pan-fry a fish before anyone noticed.
(They probably would notice and manhandle you to the ground, so I wouldn’t try
it.) It is a large team under Parry’s command, and apparently, it includes an
in-house back and butcher, the latter enabling them to handle carcasses on
tables are quite close together, and let’s be frank, it’s noisy. If you seek
intimate conversation, or your fellow diner has the voice of a timid mouse with
a sore throat, then request a table downstairs. I habitually dislike basements,
shut off from the hustle and bustle of the kitchen and tucked away out of
sight, like a naughty corner for misbehaving diners. But Mountain rethinks the
idea of basement dining to create a totally different and, for me, attractive ambiance.
It’s quieter, more clubby and more relaxed but not dead – there is a cool
atmosphere as the wood fire oven burns in the far corner. There is a separate
drinks bar behind which a retooled turntable plays a selection of choice vinyl
(not “vinyls”, which has entered parlance amongst less knowledgeable in the
collector world and is WRONG). Anyway, it’s much cooler than lazily programming
a Spotify playlist through a naff speaker. It’s these little touches that make
the difference. Next time, I may check out downstairs and maybe bring some of
my own discs to play. Don’t worry, TP, it won’t be Rick Astley.
Grilled red peppers with squid
offers a straightforward à la carte menu that neatly fits onto one A4 page, but
there are plenty of options. Like Brat, it leans more towards fish than meat,
and there are plenty of dishes to share. I notice some menu crossover with
Brat, which is no bad thing, though perhaps Mountain pushes the envelope, more
experimental? I had to ask my waiter to identify two or three of the dishes –
always good to expand one’s knowledge.
share three starters. The raw Sobrassada with honey is superb. The Spanish ham
is subtle in flavor, a little sweeter and not spicy, and the clear honey is not
too intense or unctuous. Laid atop charred toast, lending an acrid note, this
is a solid, very appetizing start.
Spider crab omelette is a dish that I am eagerly looking forward to, and we are
advised to slice it open as soon as it lands. I feel like a surgeon. The
omelette itself is beautifully cooked, light and airy. Personally, I would have
liked to taste a little more of the crab itself because it comes across more
like an upmarket omelette, and it could use just a pinch more seasoning. The Welsh-sourced
seaweed just needs a little more punch. There’s potential in this dish, but it
needs pimping up.
to our waiter, the grilled red peppers with squid only appears intermittently
on the menu, depending on availability. Our tentacled friend is fished from
Cornish waters. The squid is grilled, maybe just 30 seconds too long. The less-cooked
part is more flavorsome and tender. The ribbons of red pepper are sweet and divine,
ditto the caramelized onion, though the knob of black pudding is perhaps
surplus to requirements.
John Dory (for two) with wood-fried rice, lettuce with anchovies
main course delivers on my high expectations. We choose a medium-sized John
Dory to share, and the fish is served whole with a fabulous citrus dressing
that we are advised to mix into the skin to lend umami. Cooked to perfection,
this must be one of the finest fish courses in London right now. The Dory is slightly
meaty in texture, soft and moist. Unlike Parry’s aforementioned whole turbot,
you cannot enjoy the delicacy of the fish’s cheeks, but by the time I was
scraping morsels from the bone, I was basking in the afterglow of a memorable
dish. For sides, we order wood-fired rice that proves to be a marriage made in
heaven with the John Dory. The rice is a short-grain Bimba rice mixed with
olive oil and lemon so that when oven-cooked in a shallow metal pan, it
develops a slightly crunchy surface while semi-caramelizing the rice. A simple
dish elevated by technique. Accompanied by a bowl of lettuce and anchovies,
these three are gustatory heaven, and my tastebuds are swooning.
o’clock. We share a torrija with blackberries and a light custard cream. I will
confess that I wanted the dish I spied our neighboring table eating, and stupid
me, I misordered. Torrija is not unlike a fried brioche with a sugary coating,
and it’s just not my kind of dessert these days. Calories and whatever… My
fault. I should add that our waiter offered to change it, but I’ll save it for
The wood-fired rice that accompanies the dory
wine list is impressive. Parry later tells me that the extensive list is
sourced from around 30 suppliers, whereas the team at Noble Rot curates Brat’s.
Mountain’s vinous selection is eclectic and, at times, daring in its choices,
leaning towards low-intervention producers with an entire page devoted to
orange wines. It is particularly strong in regional France, Spain, Iberia and
Italy. I’d like to see a few more New World wines, particularly from South
Africa, that would marry well with the current selection. Bottle prices seem
reasonable compared to elsewhere, with the predictable exception of Burgundy.
Today’s ex-Domaine prices are such that even regional wines look poor value to
other regions. Also, I notice nary a Bordeaux. I enquired why. The sommelier
replies that she just hasn’t found anything exciting to list. I’m about to
launch into a lecture and command her to subscribe to Vinous for enlightenment,
but on second thought, I know where she’s coming from. It signals the
significant challenges that Bordeaux faces. While I cannot discern prejudice
against the region, with faceless château names and lack of winemaker identity,
it seems like a throwback to another time, conservative and unintentionally
aloof, not least to younger drinkers. Maybe a pertinent reminder to the Côte
d’Or that you can easily price yourself out of mindset.
decide to venture to Portugal because their whites are criminally overlooked.
The 2021 Branco from Antonio Madeira is a gem from the Dão. A
field blend of no less than twenty biodynamically-farmed, autochthonous grape
varieties, the nose is initially arresting. It’s a little oxidative with
pungent marine, fish scale scents. On its own, it feels a bit raw. However,
once the dishes arrive, the wine finds its groove, the aromatics’ oxidative
slant abating, and the thwack of salinity partnering the John Dory with style.
It’s a white Portuguese wine surfeit with character, uncompromising in the word's
positive sense and great value to boot.
Torrija with blackberries and a light custard cream
I chat with Parry, standing by the service counter. Given his success and
adulation, it’s refreshing to meet a chef without airs and graces, implacable
and relaxed, however busy the restaurant, always happy to talk. Even though a
couple of the starters could be tweaked, Mountain has hit the ground running.
Thursday lunch and the restaurant is packed to the rafters, while evenings need
to be booked long in advance. Even the counter, where passers-by can grab a
spot sans reservation if free, is full of contented diners.
long ago, Soho was lacking destination restaurants. Now, it has both Mountain
and the nearby branch of Noble
Rot, as well as stalwart Andrew
Edmunds. Service is excellent throughout, courtesy of a crack team of cool
dude waiters. The waitress mentions that the team has been cherry-picked from
existing affiliated restaurants, explaining why things already operate like a well-oiled
machine. That is something to appreciate at a time when even famous restaurants
struggle to recruit experienced staff.
next for Welsh wünderkind?
that he doesn’t expand too quickly and risk diluting his talent. He could
easily franchise out his name, but he’s too clever for that. He’s a chef
committed to what is on his plate and, refreshingly, less interested in the
rock star lifestyle. Parry’s name is synonymous with quality. I would say “soulful”
cooking, perfectly attuned to the move toward less fussy or pretentious cuisine,
basing dishes around fastidiously sourced ingredients that are perfectly
there is no chef whose food I would rather eat than Tomos Parry’s.
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