Roots to glory

10 July 2002 by
Roots to glory

With Garnier having started his serving career at the Brasserie St Quentin, almost next door to Racine's present location, and Harris's chef apprenticeship spent down the road at Hilaire, it's appropriate that "racine" is French for "root" - because it's their roots to which Harris says that he and Garnier are returning. The cooking at the 75-seat eaterie is, in Harris's words, "bourgeois Parisian, inspired by trips to Paris when I was younger and eating in brasseries rather than three-star restaurants".

The chicken liver pÁ¢té and herbs (£5.25), for instance, is an adaptation of an old Robert Carrier recipe which Harris's mother used to cook. The pÁ¢té is made with chicken livers - some minced, some chopped by hand to add texture - sausage meat, provenÁ§al herbs, green peppercorns, port, Madeira and brandy, served simply with toasted bread and, to cut through the richness, a few cornichons. "It's good, honest cooking using the best ingredients I can get," explains Harris. "Dishes like this have character. You know they're good ingredients, so you know they'll be tasty."

Harris's favourite starter, however, is the scrambled eggs with smoked eel and dried mullet roe (£7) - "intensely fishy". Another fishy option is a main of roast fillet of cod with a spiced crab butter sauce (£10). Cooked brown crab meat is spiced, then puréed so it can be whisked into a beurre blanc, with Tabasco and drops of lemon juice imparting an acid edge - "perfect with a thick-fleshed white fish like cod", according to Harris.

But, arguably, it's the meat mains that most reflect the Frenchness of the menu. Calf's head with sauce ravigote (£9) is two slices of calf's muzzle, cheek and tongue poached in a court bouillon for seven hours and adorned with a couple of pieces of calf's brain, with the vinaigrette-based sauce presented on the side in a jug.

Just as attention-grabbing as this assembly of offal are the prices: starters average £5.50 and mains £10.80, while a lunchtime prix fixe costs £12.50/£15 for two/three courses. Using seasonal ingredients is one way Harris is keeping costs down - small artichokes braised with baby fennel and garnished with a blob of a‹oli (£10) is full of the taste of summer - while other economies include using Harris Vintners, owned by Harris's dad, to supply the Armagnac and Calvados.

Meanwhile, what Harris describes as "sensible" portion sizing means that there is little waste in the kitchen, and that most diners will have room for pudding: strawberries marinated in sweetened Beaujolais (£5), perhaps, or a pot of prunes soaked in Armagnac topped with a rich custard (£5.50).

And with Harris updating his nine starters, nine main courses and eight desserts weekly, there will always be something new to try.

Racine, 239 Brompton Road, London SW3 2EP. Tel: 020 7584 4477

A selection from the Á la carte menu at Racine

Chilled tarragon and lemon soup, £5
Smoked duck, French bean and tomato salad, anchovy dressing, £5.50
Warm garlic and saffron mousse, wild mushrooms, £7
Roast skate, broad beans and caper relish, £11.50
Grilled lamb chops, peas, bacon and shallot salad, sauce paloise, £9.50
Poulet noir with creamed spinach, lentils and a herb butter, £12.50
Petit pot au chocolat, £6
Peach macaroon, £4.70
Fresh liquorice ice-cream, £4.50

The Caterer Breakfast Briefing Email

Start the working day with The Caterer’s free breakfast briefing email

Sign Up and manage your preferences below

Check mark icon
Thank you

You have successfully signed up for the Caterer Breakfast Briefing Email and will hear from us soon!

Jacobs Media Group is honoured to be the recipient of the 2020 Queen's Award for Enterprise.

The highest official awards for UK businesses since being established by royal warrant in 1965. Read more.


Ad Blocker detected

We have noticed you are using an adblocker and – although we support freedom of choice – we would like to ask you to enable ads on our site. They are an important revenue source which supports free access of our website's content, especially during the COVID-19 crisis.

trade tracker pixel tracking