★★★☆☆ / Eclectic

Dickie Fitz review – light and airy Australian almost ruins an entire suckling pig

The successor to Newman Street Tavern

I rarely get upset when a restaurant closes, no matter how good it was. At the risk of sounding trite, nothing in this life lasts forever. Even so, I was mortified to hear that Newman Street Tavern, an elegant restaurant serving reliably well-crafted French-ish dishes, was closing to be replaced by a vaguely Australian-themed restaurant from the same owners. My scepticism wasn’t assuaged by the maître d’s incredulous explanation that the change was made to appeal to ‘feminine’ diners wanting lighter dishes – needlessly gendered approaches to anything are patronising to say the least.

Dickie Fitz is, if nothing else, an attractive place. The vaguely country club decor of Newman Street Tavern has been jettisoned in favour of a light and airy interior vaguely art deco in style. The front door leads directly into the dining room, but a thick curtain keeps the draft out. Beware of the last-ditch no-reservations bar seating though – it can be uncomfortable if you’re a short arse.

decor dickie fitz

‘Dickie Fitz’ sounds like a euphemism, doesn’t it?

First things first

The beef tartare was an odd dish with minimal texture and only a mild hint of capers. Mini egg yolks, possibly quail in origin, were rich and runny but this couldn’t totally compensate for the non-presence of the chilled and formless raw beef or for the odd and needless presence of lotus root and radishes. A poor start.

steak tartare at dickie fitz

Buried beef.

Firm and meaty barramundi had a bouncy bite to it as well as a salmon-like funk. The fish was served with taut cabbage and yieldingly soft daikon, but the puddle of dashi was far too tame though with barely any umami.

barramundi with daikon radish in dashi at dickie fitz

Barry munday.

I’ve never encountered kale hearts before, but I’m instantly a fan of Dickie Fitz’s version – firm and bitter with a buttery quality.

kale hearts at dickie fitz

Why have I not had these before?

Soft and squidgy Lamingtons, on the other hand, were a disappointing letdown given their vaunted Antipodean fame. A vague chocolate flavour was outweighed by the heavy dusting of dessicated coconut. It’s similar to a Tunnock’s Snowball, but with squidgy sponge in the place of marshmallow and, outside of Australia at least, without the old school charm.

lamingtons at dickie fitz

Square pegs.

A far better dessert was the yielding panna cotta in the shape of a roll. The gentle but still distinctly herby and tart taste of kaffir lime was neatly complimented by the tart and sweet apple sorbet. The sorbet managed to be refreshingly cool without being bone chillingly icy.

kaffir lime panna cotta at dickie fitz

Limeys. Limeys everywhere.

Going back for seconds

Meaty slices of sea bass carpaccio were thicker than usual, but the bigger problem was their chilled straight-out-of-the-fridge temperature which negated whatever character they might once have had. This dish wasn’t lacking in flavour though from the squirting of blood orange juice to the mouth pursingly sour and bitter mini bush limes. Although such strident sourness won’t suit everyone, I loved it. It was second only to the crunchy and umami tempura crumbs. If only the fish carpaccio itself hadn’t been chilled to death.

sea bass carpaccio at dickie fitz

Crumbs.

Cauliflower gyoza were much more like tortellini, both in shape and texture. The oddly airy, but bland ricotta-like filling and thin slices of underwhelming cauliflower let the garnish of nutty pine nuts and gently sweet raisins take centre stage. Given how sharp and creamy the best cauliflower dishes can be, these haphazard tortellini were a real disappointment.

cauliflower dumplings at dickie fitz

Gyoza my arse.

Green beans were a tad too soft, but dressed in a mildly piquant sambal-style sauce dotted with crisp and nutty almond shavings. A firmer bite would have been better, but this was still a good side.

sambal green beans at dickie fitz

Deuteranopia.

Although light, the lemon tart had too little pastry and a one-dimensional tartness that left me wanting.

lemon tart at dickie fitz

This tart was too tart – and I like tart tarts.

The flat white was a tad watery and lacking in character, but it did have a thin silky head and packed a caffeinated wallop that kept me going through the afternoon and into the evening.

flat white at dickie fitz

Do they have coffee in Westeros?

Meaty threesome

The tuna tataki managed to retain the meaty tang of that fish despite being a little too chilled. Assorted vegetables added a sweet herby tang, while the avocado puree was surprisingly complimentary to both the tuna and the mirin-infused broth. As an umami fish dish, this tuna tataki starter was imperfect but still more punchy than the barramundi main.

tuna tataki at dickie fitz

To the person at the other table who asked, no this is not gammon.

A slab of pork belly was suitably meaty, but its lack of character wasn’t helped by the hard and unrendered streak of fat. With the belly flopping, it was left to the tart fennel kimchi, lightly spiced with ginger, to restore some honour to this dish. The meaty broth took on the flavours of the kimchi quickly, ensuring this dish wasn’t a complete loss.

pork belly at dickie fitz

This isn’t gammon either.

The fries were definitely thin, sickly and unsatisfying fries rather than proper thick, whole cut and chunky chips. The added chickeny saltiness faded quickly, leaving little to remember.

chicken salt fries at dickie fitz

Rubbing chicken salt into my wounds.

Smooth and sweet burnt marshmallow was almost like ice cream in its softness. The chocolate fondant matched the marshmallow in smoothness and gooeyness, but it tasted of little. Powerfully nutty and salty peanut bound these two blobs of softness together. It was almost too bold, but the underwhelming flavour profile of the fondant and marshmallow meant thats its presence, in the end, was a welcome one and made this dessert a moderate success rather than a middling failure.

burnt marshmallow, chocolate fondant and peanut dessert at dickie fitz

Why can’t I have a dessert in the shape of a free-standing Stay Puft Marshmallow Man?

Dickie Fitz’s flat whites may not be the best of its kind, but this brew was consistent in staying much the same as it was before.

flat white coffee at dickie fitz

It’s an odd world where localities most commonly associated with coffee aren’t notable coffee growers – Italy, Vienna and Australia for example.

Taking the fourth

The lobster short soup may be oddly named, but it was also far better than I expected following the disappointing cauliflower gyoza. The highly umami soup was thin with a soy sauce-like colour to it, but had an intense bisque-like taste to it. This was just as well as the chunky lobster meat filling of the gyoza-like dumplings tasted more of ginger than lobster itself. Aromatic herbs scattered on top added another layer of flavour. The balance between soup and dumpling was tilted too much in favour of the former, but this dish did ultimately deliver its promised seaside flavour.

lobster short soup at dickie fitz

Less a soup, almost a sauce.

Lamb chops were moist and gently earthy with a lightly crisp crust. The minty sauce on the side wasn’t really necessary, as it could overwhelm the natural meaty funk of the chops. It can’t hope to match the meaty delights of the lamb sometimes available at The Newman Arms or Pitt Cue, but it’s nonetheless a respectable rendition.

lamb chops at dickie fitz

Spring forwards.

The kitchen clearly likes playing around with umami as a bowlful of cabbage was carpet bombed with parmesan, delivering a knock out punch of umami. If the lamb chops were a subtle and understated costume drama, then this side was a summer blockbuster.

cabbage and parmesan at dickie fitz

That’s an odd saucepan.

Dickie Fitz’s dessert and pastry chef clearly knows how to make a good sorbet. The coconut variety was smooth, unmistakably flavoured and delivered a clean after taste which made it a good accompaniment for the banana bread sticky toffee pudding. Although not the bold combination of fruity, tangy viscosity and hearty stodge that I was expecting, it was still gently sweet and tinged with ginger.

banana bread sticky toffee ginger pudding with coconut sorbet at dickie fitz

Ginger finger.

The flat white remained unchanged.

flat white coffee art at dickie fitz

Turning over a new leaf.

July 2016 update: Group dining at Dickie Fitz

A need for a restaurant capable of hosting a large group prompted a return to Dickie Fitz, this time in a large group with Veal Smasher, Templeton Peck, Porn Master and Vicious Alabaster among others. The restaurant has a weekend feasting option that’s alluring on paper – a whole suckling pig to share for £350. When split between a group of ten, it’s eminently affordable.

If you’re squeamish however, then the suckling pig won’t be for you. Not only do you get see the little blighter in all its porcine glory before it’s cooked, the final product is brought to your table with the head and trotters for you to admire. It was enough to put off Porn Master’s other half who, up until that point, had been primed for a good porking.

suckling pig at dickie fitz

The Piggy Glutton.

The good news is that the pork itself was moist and milky with a modest gaminess that would’ve fooled me into thinking that it was a meat other than pork if I didn’t know better. It was also lean. The bad news is that the skin was disappointingly soft and floppy. It bore no resemblance whatsoever to the crisp crackling you’d get from, for example, Le Bab’s pig head or from a classic Segovian-style roast suckling pig. It was a crushing disappointment as good crackling can elevate a merely satisfactory roast suckling pig into an excellent one.

suckling pig at dickie fitz fitzrovia

Porcine photos for your pleasure.

roast suckling pig at dickie fitz newman street london

You’ll be impressed by this only if you’ve never had roast suckling pig before.

Starters included arancini/suppli-esque mac and cheese balls. I found myself unenthused by the mediocre pasta and substandard cheese, but at least the deep-fried morsels were crisp and free from excess oil.

fried mac and cheese balls at dickie fitz

Hemisphere.

The green beans with almonds and a modestly piquant sauce was unchanged from the first time I had it, while crisp and cool crudites were served with a dip that resembled an inoffensive creme fraiche trying to do an impression of tzatziki. Gyoza actually looked like gyoza this time with suitably crimped skins of modest thickness, although the tame lobster and prawn filling wouldn’t pass muster in most Japanese restaurants or most dim sum restaurants for that matter.

crudites at dickie fitz

Crude.

lobster and prawn gyoza at dickie fitz

Dumped.

Sides of a modestly creamy and fluffy mash, lightly buttered and salted greens and a green salad were nothing to write home about.

mashed potatoes at dickie fitz

Mash at a mash-up restaurant.

greens at dickie fitz

This review’s procrastination was brought to you, in part, by the consumption of far too much ice cream.

Dessert, such as it was, came once again in the form of lamingtons. Although no better than before, at least they were no worse.

lamingtons at dickie fitz fitzrovia

Fitzroy.

lamingtons at dickie fitz newman street

Square peg.

The Verdict

Dickie Fitz is far from bad, due in large part to its attractive decor and generally friendly, efficient service. But it’s an unworthy successor to Newman Street Tavern with a ridiculous gendered conceit and an uneven menu that’s only intermittently satisfying and never really good enough to match, never mind exceed, The Providores and Tapa Room – the benchmark for this genre. It’s not Australian, but if you’re hungry in Fitzrovia then you’re much better off at the French-esque Piquet.

What to orderLobster short soup; Lamb chops; Parmesan and cabbage; Kale hearts; Kaffir lime panna cotta

What to skipCauliflower gyoza; Pork belly; Chicken salt fries; Beef tartare

 

Name: Dickie Fitz

Address: 48 Newman Street, Fitzrovia, London W1T 1QQ

Phone: 0203 667 1445

Webhttp://dickiefitz.co.uk/

Opening Hours: weekdays 07.30-10.30, noon-15.00 and 17.30-22.30; Saturday 08.00-11.00, noon-16.00 and 18.00-22.30; Sunday noon-18.00. 

Reservations: highly recommended the closer you get to the weekend

Average cost for one person including soft drinks and service charge: £45-50 approx.

Rating★★★☆☆

Dickie Fitz Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Square Meal

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Dickie Fitz review – light and airy Australian almost ruins an entire suckling pig

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s