not at all what you might expect
in the heart of Wimbledon Village
I like these small groups of restaurants
that are springing up in London
neighbourhoods where there is a
good chance of finding a healthy
local population of keen foodies.
The menus vary a bit from one to
another, so one can go exploring
in other territories, confident
that the standard will be just
as high in Fulham as it is in Highgate.
With the exception
of Canyon, located in Richmond-upon-Thames,
this group is named after the Mid-West
states Dakota, Utah, Idaho and
Montana. That leaves room for expansion.
Without getting too coastal and
Californian, there's Nevada, Arizona,
Wyoming and Colorado to look forward
to. Oregon wouldn't be too out
of place in Blackheath, perhaps?
Or even in Battersea - the new
I shouldn't think New Mexico would
be a likely candidate as it has
a TexMex ring about it, and that
is precisely what this group is not! These
restaurants are definitely French
Fry and Tortilla free zones. Utah in
Wimbledon Village is more Zen than
anything, with its minimalist lines
and sage furnishings. I liked the
contrasting shaped dining areas,
particularly the long table at
bar height with stools where you
can sit together with total strangers
in refectory fashion - very sociable.
Our friendly waiter observed that
people either love it or hate it.
I bet the foodies love it, because
they adore looking at everyone
else's food. Beware the predatory
fork homing in on your Kingfish!
Rather than rabbit on about all
the different dishes on Gavin
Houghton's menu, you can get
your juices going by reading
it for yourselves.
The starter of pan fried soft
shell crab was wonderful, with
blackened flavours that must have
derived from the smoked tomato
sauce. The lady at the rather close
next door table seemed to be most
enthusiastic about her goat's cheese
profiteroles which looked very
spectacular. I had the scorched
cuttlefish which was the best fishy
starter I've eaten this century!
It was one of those dishes that
reminds you of a previous gastronomic
experience that you've been trying
to recapture for years - a sort
of réchérche du temps perdu.
This had the intensity of some
chargrilled squid just hauled out
of the Mediterranean sea in Zadar
in the summer of 1976 - thank you
Gavin for reminding me of it so
For her main course my guest had
a Seafood Rice Cazuela,
which was like a cross between
a risotto and and a paella, with
lots of mussels, squid and other
fish. I had fig filled breast of
guinea fowl which was absolutely
delicious, a terrific dish. It
came with a ball of stuffing that
looked a bit like an onion bajia.
It was made from blue corn bread
and generous cubes of prosciutto
and I can't wait to try making
some if I can prise the recipe
out of Daniel McDowell who
is the exec head chef for the group.
I suspect it's his recipe, since
Gavin has only been at Utah for
a couple weeks. Previously he was
working for Anthony Demetre (who
is one of my favourite and most
respected chefs) at Putney
We drank a couple of aperatif
glasses of a pleasant Pinot Blanc
from Alsace, at £4 a glass (it's
better value at £15 the bottle),
and followed that with some white
Rioja (£18) whose oaky bite was
perfect with both the fishy starters
and the Cazuela.
The home made ices were super,
especially the mint ice cream -
another thing I shall try immediately.
In case you haven't read any of
my reviews before, the highest
praise from me is when I want to
rush home and try to reproduce
a dish. Then I make my students
do it! If you like blancmange,
try the more elevated Italian version pannacotta flavoured
with a lemongrass infused syrup.
Somehow we have left Utah far
away - let alone Wimbledon!
Clifford Mould - January 2000
Utah - 118a High Street, Wimbledon
Tel: 020 8944 1909 Fax: 020 8944 1890
Other restaurants in the group:
- Montana - 125 Dawes Fulham
SW6 020 7385 9500
- Canyon - Riverside (nr Richmond
Bridge), Surrey Tel: 0181 948
- Dakota - 127 Ledbury Road,
Notting Hill W11, Tel: 020 7792
- Idaho - 13 North Hill, Highgate
N6, Tel: 020 8341 6633