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Dine - London EC4

Classical cooking from Thomas Han

Dine is tucked away in a jokey sounding place: Took's Court, "just off"  Holborn, next door to the  restaurant we reviewed last year called Chancery. I like it when restaurants sit cheek by jowl, it shows confidence in competition and friendly rivalry as well as establishing the location as a destination for serious diners. And Dine is a place where you can get a foodie fix and enjoy value for money.

There's a now obligatory smart bar and a lounging area with leather sofas, but the restaurant is discreetly furnished and comfortable. Downstairs there's plenty of room for overspill tables or private parties.

Chef patron Thomas Han has Indo-Chine connections to bring to his classic French culinary heritage. Before opening Dine in late September 2005, Han was cooking at Roussillon in Pimlico - now it looks as though Dine is set to become another little gem awaiting discovery.

I went with a pal for lunch, but we ate mainly off the pukka menu (£25 for two, £30 for three courses), except for a brilliant starter from the lunch menu, (2 for £16, 3 for £18). This was a pumpkin  risotto, so creamy, perfectly al dente and with a delicate but lingering flavour. I began with the open raviolo of Burgundian snails, huge and juicy and not overpowered by the carefully judged parsley sauce. The pasta was fresh and had parsley leaves pressed into it like the pressed flowers we had to make at Sunday school (only better!). You could have had pan fried foie gras with quince at no extra supplement, and another time I would like to see the tandooried Dublin Bay prawns au Sautoir which I presume means criss-crossed like a St Andrew's Saltire.

For our mains we had the saddle and leg of Lincolnshire Rabbit, neatly wrapped up in bacon, with root vegetables that could have been more generous to match the plentiful amount of meat. The same comment would apply to the rather minimal garnish that came with my wild duck , which was otherwise excellent, with the leg and breast cooked separately so that leg meat fell off the bone and breast was pink inside. I liked the nice little details like the fondant turnip and caramelised fig. Half a mallard suited me fine at lunchtime, but I doubt it would satisfy some of the hefty lawyers that inhabit the various Inns of Court close by. 

For pudding a tarte Tatin was classic, and could have been a little more caramelised, but the steamed ginger pudding was perfect, fluffy and light with the naughtiest of dark treacle sauce, with little hits of ginger that never fail to surprise you even though you know they were there all the time.

The wine list looked well thought out, with plenty under £20 and a few treats further down the card.  I enjoyed this lunch very much indeed, and I hope that Dine does well - Thomas Han cooks imaginatively whilst resisting the temptation to meddle with con-fusion cuisine. His gentle swishes of Indo-Chine spicing were just right.

Directions, from Chancery Lane Station, south side of Holborn, turn into Furnival Street and Took's Court is on the right. Or, from Chancery Lane itself, turn into Cursitor Street and it's next to Chancery restaurant which is on the corner of Cursitor and Tooks Court.

Clifford Mould October 2005 - Dine Online highly recommended

Dine is open Monday - Friday 12.00 - 2.30pm and 6pm - 9.30
Tel: 020 7404 1818

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