If you’re looking to buy a £700 pair of trainers that look like an orthopaedic necessity crossed with a Bratz doll, then the internet has got you covered. If you’re looking to buy a £700 pair of trainers that look like an orthopaedic necessity crossed with a Bratz doll and a side of fermented potato waffle with mushroom parfait, then go to Native at Browns. Native have been around for a while now. First in Covent Garden, then in Southwark, and now at a residency in a Mayfair shop where previously, one imagines, the sight of a prehistoric-looking bone marrow dessert may have caused mass panic and an attempt to call Richard Attenborough.
Now though, bone marrow caramel and whatnot is the norm. Along with all of Native’s other UK-sourced, field-foraged, down-the-back-of-the-sofa salvaged ingredients. Just like at their previous spots, there are things that really stand out here. Their focaccia with confit garlic oil is undoubtedly in top ten breads territory. Their palm-sized take on the filet-o-fish alongside a seaweed martini and a spot in their courtyard - hidden and gem-like in the truest senses and prices - is a bougie summer snack done right. But not everything in this swanky Restaurant x Courtyard x Shop concept fits perfectly.
For example, the courtyard space is undoubtedly better than the alternative. Where the outside is open and green and slick in a kind of 007-type way, the inside is narrow and chichi and feels a little too precious compared with the perfect scene outside. Food-wise, things have always been particular at Native. And their zero-waste approach should be highlighted and applauded. But in this environment, things are starting to feel a little confused. Why are the smacked cucumbers not actually smacked? Why is a sustainability-first restaurant in a high-fashion shop? Why is pudding served in a great big bone? Everything here, it has to be stressed, tastes good. Sometimes very good. But the whole thing just smells of Goop.
Still, restaurants like fashion are a matter of taste. And this for a full, get the lot, £150 plus dinner or lunch, isn’t our (Birkin) bag. But it might be yours. We’re more likely to be back here, outside, with a cocktail in hand, an impeccable fish filet, and a fancy Solero on its way. As far as incongruous medleys go, that’s the kind we like.
Focaccia & Confit Garlic Oil
Like a hungry fox trailing the smell of hot food, we’ve been following Native’s focaccia around London for some time now. The good news is that it’s still very good. If anything, it may even have gotten better. The focaccia is soft and springy while the confit garlic oil has just the right amount of smooth garlic tingle.
Native Fish Filet
Mimicry of McDs is a dangerous game. But when done well (see, Four Legs’ now infamous cheeseburger) it can get the heart racing in a way that doesn’t necessarily mean a coronary. Native’s fish filet is another example of this. Deep-fried cod’s cheeks, a smear of seaweed tartare sauce and a slipping slice of cheese-looking crab rarebit in between a Polly Pocket-sized brioche bun. At £8.50 it’s a deliciously rich mouthful in every way.
Fermented Potato Waffle, Yeasted Onion & Mushroom Parfait
Of all the ‘inventive leftovers’ sounding things that appear on Native’s menu, the waffle and parfait combo speaks most to the jaded, drunk, spiritually middle-aged person inside us. It screams fumbling in the back of the cupboard, sticking something in the toaster, and smearing whatever’s in the fridge - but it tastes far more thoughtful, rich and savoury than that.
Undeniably not smacked but served in perfect spheres, this cucumber in a tantalising, fizzing scallop roe hot sauce is very nice (on its own). Though too big and too flavourful to be a course to itself. As a part of a bizarre buffet of a menu, it doesn’t quite work.
Rich and cheesy and completely at odds with anything cold on your table, this potato risotto is a surprisingly hearty dish. The Spendwood cheddar is equal parts creamy and nutty and, all-in-all, makes for a bowl of food you could (and should) enjoy on its own.
White chocolate and caramel is too sweet for our liking and serving it in a bone is just a bit, well, sullen? Something for We Want Plates, we think.
A pun on the unequivocal ruler of newsagent freezers UK-wide, this sea buckthorn lolly is really the perfect way to end a rich meal. Not just because it’s a perfectly-formed, more piquant imitation. But because on the side there’s a pile of oat milk sorbet and Alexander Seed crumbs that will tingle your taste buds.