MARCO Pierre White opened his res- taurant at the end
of January; now if you want a table you have to book seriously in advance. The fact that his restaurant has been going for such a short time and is now full every night suggests it is good. The fact that his restaurant is in the depths of Wandsworth and is fully every night sug- gests it is excellent. And it is.
It has to be said that Harvey's (672 0114) looks (and sounds — he inherited the name) very English. A Victorian house overlooking the common, outside it is painted British racing green and overhung with a heavy metal awning. Inside there is a carpet that could plausibly be used in an Alan Bennett play. A fake coal fire gives off a cosy flickering light and the large windows are designer-draped. Sensibly the walls are left a plain, unadorned white. Thus is elegance achieved.
Take a long time over the menu. Not because it's long or complicated, but be- cause there's pleasure to be had in it. £13.50 is the price of a two-course dinner, with five starters and seven main courses (or `mainboards' as they're called here) to choose from. We started with the gel& of fresh asparagus and calves' brains, a glistening slab of creamy brains and firm asparagus in chicken consommé with a dressing of sherry vinegar, walnut oil and cream; the 'mosaic' of lamb and ratatouil- le, Velvety-soft lamb pressed between the individual ratatouille vegetables which have been marinated in oil and pieced together to form, with the lamb, a beauti- ful display of Etruscan pinks, reds and greens: the nage of fresh fish with corian- der, a Mosimanesque dish of tender pieces of fish with a julienne of carrots, in a sauce of stock, fragrant with saffron and corian- der and thickened glossily with butter; and the ravioli of langoustine and basil (for which you pay a £2 supplement), which were out of this world. There were four of us, so the fifth starter, a pate of leeks and scallops, had to go untried. Don't be put off by the fancy terminology. Marco aims to provide 'honest' cooking and succeeds. Tastes are pure, textures carefully com- bined: the result is perfection.
Starters are often a menu's high point. Here, main courses are no disappointment. Portions are substantial, and the same concern with textures and the harmonious whole is present as it was with the first
courses. Vegetables come with, which means not only do you not find an extra £3.50 each on the bill for them, but different vegetables are served to go speci- fically with the different main courses. Thus, with the sweetbreads (softly braised in a wild mushroom stock), you are given morilles and a confit of leeks; with the rabbit with languoustines (an extraordin- ary but successful confection — a whole saddle of rabbit, looking rather like the baby in David Lynch's Eraserhead, with an earthy sauce made of reduced langoustine stock, thickened with butter, cream and olive oil and flavoured with basil) you get a cone of pasta-string, baby onions and braised lettuce. There is a £2 supplement for this, but it's worth it. As inspired were the fillet of veal topped with parsley purée and lagliatelli' of carrots and the noisettes of rich, pink lamb with tarragon.
It is an excellent menu, and extraordin- ary, value, though I think they should be a little more careful about adding supple- ments; if there need to be too many then the set price should be higher. It is unlikely you will want pudding, but if you do I should have the gratin of pink grapefruit and oranges in sabayon sauce, blistered quickly under the. grill, or the honey ice-cream with a fresh apricot sauce. All puddings, and cheese (from Philippe Oli- vier, and you are given slivers of eight or nine cheeses) are £3 and they are no namby-pamby pieces of plate decoration. The wine list is not cheap, but there are delights in it, and they don't have to be the most expensive: the '85 Chardonnay le Chouan (£8.00) and '84 Morgon (£12.50) were marvellous, the chardonnay in par- ticular.
At Harvey's you can have one of the best meals to be had in London (a Parisian among us was knocked sideways by it) and for a fraction of the price you'd have to pay elsewhere. With kir royale before, two bottles of wine and a half of sauternes, three courses and coffee, we paid under £30 a head. The only thing that could make the whole thing more pleasurable would be if they moved somewhere more central. And if they've got their wits about them, backers should be falling over themselves to provide the wherewithal. Until then, Wandsworth is blessed indeed.