Spread over two floors featuring homely vintage furnishings, Fitzrovia restaurant The Ninth is Jun Tanaka’s first solo venture offering relaxed neighbourhood dining at its finest. The Ninth is so called because it is the ninth restaurant Jun has worked in, although the very first he has owned.
Sitting right in the centre of Charlotte Street, The Ninth’s striking copper and deep green exterior and covered alfresco terrace – which seats eight – leads into a warm and inviting space with contemporary accents, conceived by Dale Atkinson of Rosendale Design.
As we entered the restaurant we noticed how the dark wooden floors are complemented by elegant olive tufted leather banquettes lining the exposed brick walls, while the small yet stylish oak-topped bar which is reserved for walk-ins – is covered in slate green tiles and copper edging, and flanked by plush terracotta leather bar stools.
We dined downstairs where the atmosphere was relaxed and buzzy surrounded by couples enjoying the sensational cuisine of Jun and his team. There was an interesting mix of diners including one couple who popped in just to enjoy tea and dessert – seeing this we knew we were in for a treat as this was surely a sign of well-deserved reputation for great food… or at least great desserts at the very least!
We began with an aperitif from the bar – a refreshing cocktail made with Hendricks Gin, elderflower and apple juice that was served with slices of cucumber and apple – a wonderfully seasonal aperitif now the elderflower harvest has begun.
We opened the meal with one of the must-try snacks, the Duck scotch egg which we shared between us. All the dishes on the menu are designed for sharing which makes The Ninth the perfect place to go on a date. The duck scotch egg was divine and had what can only be described as the Goldilocks of yolks… not too runny, not too set but just right. This dish showcased the duck egg perfectly. The slight soft texture of the white of the egg was a pleasure to savour balanced by the meaty flavours of the pork.
We also snacked on the freshly baked pitta sprinkled generously with oregano and sea salt. It arrived at the table like a puffed up cloud of warm wheaty goodness and the addition of the fresh oregano and sea salt made this a moreish dish which whetted our appetites for the delights to come.
Soon to follow was a couple of hot starters. We chose the caramelised scallops served with cavolo nero and ginger. The scallops were beautifully caramelised yet retained a succulent fork tender texture that demonstrated the skill of the chef. The flavour of the cavolo nero complemented that of the seafood in this well devised dish and the delicate pungency of the ginger lifted the flavours to even greater heights.
We also sampled the gratinated mussels served with a generous helping of herb butter. Again, the mussels were cooked to perfection and simply lifted off the shell with hardly any effort. The tasty crumb juxtaposed nicely with the rich buttery juices. With five mussels served on the plate, I graciously let my dining companion enjoy the last one. The scallops and mussels are perfect sharers, leaving you with that just-a-forkful-more feeling.
Our appetites whetted, we were ready to for the fish dish and we enjoyed sharing the chargrilled monkfish served with purple sprouting broccoli and smoked anchovy vinagrette. The use of smoked anchovies in the dressing added the necessary punch to the meaty yet delicate flavour of the monkfish and was an inspired addition. The generous serving of broccoli was, like the monkfish itself, enough to share between two.
At the same time as enjoying the monkfish we also chose to savour the salted beef cheeks, oxtail consommé, peas and young green broad beans. Beef cheeks are known to be one of the softest meats available but like all of The Ninth’s dishes, Jun takes this dish to the next level by salting the cheeks in brine for 5 days. This gives them the most delightful tenderness when cooked and the meat literally fell apart under the spoon and practically melted in the mouth. Definitely the highlight of an already impressive array of dishes and a new personal favourite of mine.
As a vegetable dish to accompany the mains, we chose the charcoal roasted celeriac, smoked almonds and wild garlic. More than just a supporting act, the celeriac was served in large rustic chunks still with plenty of bite after being roasted and their flavour and texture paired well with the smoked almonds and garlic. Some may find the celeriac chunks a little too big perhaps but this was certainly not the case with us.
The dessert menu effortlessly executes French classics taken to the next level. Well-known desserts like tarte tatin receive Jun’s culinary magic and are served with a twist… in this case with a delicately flavoured rosemary ice cream – the rosemary notes perfectly complementing the caramelised apple flavours. A truly exceptional dessert!
The pain perdu was another popular choice with our fellow diners, and who could blame them looking at the thick slab of golden brioche alongside a cool scoop of vanilla ice cream. What a great combination of hot and cold… and once again, Jun has taken French Toast to dizzy heights of deliciousness!
Open for lunch and dinner Monday to Saturday, The Ninth’s à la carte menu shines light on the best seasonal produce, while pickled, brined and cured specialities anchor the offering. The menu is divided into eight sections – snacks, hot starters, salads, raw & cured, meat, fish, vegetables and desserts.
Jun Tanaka has over 20 years’ experience working in London’s top restaurants – including several Michelin starred kitchens – and he has spent a decade under the tutelage of Michel Roux Jnr, Marco Pierre White and Eric Chavot. Most recently, Jun was Executive Chef at Pearl Restaurant in Holborn, where he gained three AA Rosettes. Together with his business partner Mark Jankel, Jun created the sustainable mobile Street Kitchen brand, which launched its fourth – and first permanent – site earlier this year in Broadgate Circle. He’s a regular face on cookery-based television shows, both in the UK and US, as well as the author of Simple to Sensational, published in 2009.
Dining at The Ninth, one can expect simple yet refined French-Mediterranean sharing plates married with friendly service from knowledgeable French waiters in waistcoats. Jun’s dishes are layered yet distinctly light, and served in a thoughtful but fuss-free manner, allowing the flavours of each ingredient to truly shine. With some must-try dishes on the outstanding menu like the beef cheeks and pain perdu, we cannot recommend The Ninth more highly.
22 Charlotte Street, London W1T 2NB
020 3019 0880