Manuka Kitchen, Fulham – reviewed.

My home country is 11,000 miles away. When I moved to the UK it never even occurred to me that it was possible to find tastes of home – recipes and treats common to us Antipodeans. As such it has been a wonderful surprise in the last few years discovering that London contains so many Kiwi-owned and operated restaurants and cafes. They know how to do proper Sweetcorn Fritters, Lolly Cake and Bacon & Egg Pie.

Manuka Kitchen is one of these places. Now, let’s be fair, it’s pointless going to a restaurant just because it’s owned (or partially owned in this case) by a fellow countryman. I only go in search of great food – anything less doesn’t make the radar.

One of the scene stealers; a manuka honey creme brulee

Disclaimer: We were invited guests of Manuka, but my (many) opinions are only ever my own, and I would never recommend anywhere that I wouldn’t happily visit, and revisit on my own dime.

Bone marrow and saffron arancini.

I’m always asked what New Zealand food is, and the answer of “Erm, well, European with a Pacific/Asian flavour” seems to make people happy. Well, the team of Tyler Martin and Joseph Antippa at Manuka Kitchen near Fulham Broadway have gone slightly off on another tangent, by using specifically Kiwi products to counterpoint some of their European inspired menu. I’m of course speaking of Manuka Honey.

If you’re not ‘in the know’ yet, Manuka Honey is a ‘superfood’ originating from New Zealand, and comes from single source – the bees that pollinate Manuka (aka tea) trees in New Zealand’s East Cape region. About 4 years ago there were a lot of exciting claims that Manuka could heal wounds, which were never quite realised. It’s still delicious though, and is full of all sorts of vitamins, nutrients and goodness.

Lemongrass and manuka honey cured salmon, radish, cress – just divine.

We popped in for brunch at the start of the year when they were settling into their stride, and it’s great to see how they’ve settled into their home in Fulham.

Just after Christmas, Miss Runawaykiwi and I were lucky enough to be invited to pop in and hide from the rain. We began our evening trying a variety of their starters. The Bone Marrow and Saffron Arancini was lovely and golden, a nice starter. The dish of carrots, lentils and goat cheese was good as well – and beautifully timed – we ate on New Years Day, and it’s a UK superstition that eating lentils on New Years Day is fortuitous.

Heirloom Carrots, red quinoa lentils, ash rolled goat cheese and pine nuts.

My favourite starter the Lemongrass and Manuka Honey-cured Salmon, with radish and cress. The marinated salmon was a gorgeous combination of rich luxurious fish, sweet manuka marinade and the crispy counterpoint crunch of whisper thin cucumber slices.

Mains were hard to choose between, but we went with the Slow-cooked Duck Leg served with winter vege, and the bavette (steak), lyonaise potato, confit carrot, caper & horse radish butter with water cress. The duck was fall apart delicious – you only had to tease it off the bone with your fork. The Bavette was a new-to-us steak, a flank cut, and was a little tough for our palate. I’ve done a little research, and it’s the leg muscle of the cow, which explains the texture.

Slow cooked duck leg, herb spaetzle, roasted cauliflower, pine nuts.

Bavette, Lyonaise potato, confit carrot, caper and horse radish butter, water cress.

Our sides were gorgeous; the golden, crispy pillows of chips dusted with paprika and parmesan salt, and the suprisingly scrumptious Watercress, Pear and Walnut Salad had us hunting out the plump marinated pear. I would go back just for a large bowl of this salad.

Fries, smoked paprika and parmesan salt.

Watercress, pear and walnut salad.

Our desserts, as hinted at above really stole the show. Melt in the mouth fragments of bitter chocolate and manuka truffles (served in the dinkiest tins) came out to very appreciative ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaahs’, and then silence as we devoured them (it’s a mark of how delicious they were because by this point we were stuffed)…

Bitter chocolate and manuka honey truffles.

… and then the crowning glory. I was only allowed a teeny spoonful of my dinner date’s Manuka Honey and Safron Brûlée, but oh, what a spoonful it was. It was a rich, creamy serving of New Zealand sunshine on a plate, topped with the scrumptious sugar crackle and fresh raspberries.

Manuka honey and safron brûlée.

We were able to have a nice chat with Tyler Martin, the Kiwi chef & fellow longterm expat, and it was interesting to get a look into the dynamics of the area. A stone’s throw from the King’s Road, Manuka Kitchen seems to be mostly frequented by locals; a combination of French, Italian and English residents who have discovered this little gem.

The decor is rustic chic, nothing pretentious and has a nice homely character to it. I could see this as a great local that you pop to after a few post-work drinks in the City. Tyler’s advice? Pop in a little earlier in the evening as their dinner peak times seem to be 8-9 pm for dinner (typical Londoners), and their weekend brunches are getting very, very popular. So popular that they are starting to extend the weekend meals to a weekend roast service in order to catch the really late risers.

Watch this space. I hear A. A. Gill was in for dinner not long after us – we’re always ahead of the game, us Kiwis.

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