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The Phoenix, Lower Richmond Road, London SW15

Clifford Mould returns to this upmarket neighbourhood diner after ten years!

I think the opening of the Phoenix in Putney was one of the first I ever attended as editor of the then infant Dine Online. Ten years ago we had a job explaining to restaurateurs what the web was all about and how people could access it from anywhere in the world. After the success of her Barnes restaurant Sonny's, Rebecca Mascarenhas opened The Phoenix, then followed on with Sonny's in Nottingham, and most recently 11 Abingdon Road which we reviewed last month.

The head chef at The Phoenix is Roger Brook, who until 2004 was sous to the renowned  Franco Taruschio, former Head Chef and Patron of the famous Walnut Tree Inn in Abergavenny. Franco has lent a guiding hand to The Phoenix for some time now, so although The Phoenix is not exactly an Italian restaurant, it certainly sports an Italian accent.

Take, for instance one of Roger's signature starters - it's his take on Franco's magnificent Vincisgrassi Maceratesi, a  veritable Maserati of pasta dishes, with layers of home made lasagne and creamy sauce with Parma ham and fungi including a liberal dose of truffle. Franco made this for us at the opening of La Cucina Caldesi, and Roger's was just as good. A puntarella and rocket salad with anchovy dressing and plenty of shaved parmesan was good and fresh, as was the octopus, whose tentacles were tender, though the dill dressing reminded me a little too strongly of gravadlax. If I hadn't been having a really meaty main course I might well have gone for the warm salad of pigeon with artichokes, hazelnuts and pancetta.

There were three interesting fish dishes on the main course list: monkfish and scallop spiedini (skewers to you - by the way a dictionary would be handy at The Phoenix) - Pan fried skate wing, and roast cod. We had the cod, and it was a really good piece, paradoxically flaky but firm, with very delicious barbe di frate (a seaweed not unlike samphire). Meanwhile I had difficulty choosing between the slow cooked pork belly and the salt beef. In the end I chose the beef, which had been home cured. It was fine, but the texture wasn't quite unctuous enough for my taste. Incidentally, the meat dishes were the most typically British things on the menu, albeit having subtle little twists in the garnishes.

To finish, I relished a lemon posset, which was chilled, super smooth in texture and very lemony - full marks. The duet of passion fruit parfait and chocolate sorbet  also made its mark most successfully. There's a relatively short but effective wine list chosen by Master of Wine Emma Maurice, starting with house wines from £11.95, to a £62 Barolo, and plenty of quality to choose from around the £20-£30 mark. The Phoenix is more than just a neighbourhood restaurant, it sets a high standard and contrives to offer value for money too. Starters cost around £6, mains range from £11.50 to £14.50, and puds cost from £4.50 to £6.50 for cheeses. Lunch £15.50 for three courses. 12.5% service added.

Clifford Mould March 2006

The Phoenix, 162 Lower Richmond Road, Putney, London SW15 1LY
Tel: 020 8780 3131

Email:  Web:

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