She’s long been hailed as one of London’ most talented female chefs, having made a name for herself under Marcus Wareing at The Gilbert Scott and later Tredwells. Now she’s opened her first restaurant, Apricity: a thoughtfully sustainable spot in the heart of Mayfair that serves up zero waste dishes with foraged ingredients on tables made of reclaimed wood. With its buzzy vibe, inventive menu and socially conscious ethos, Apricity is our London restaurant of the week.
Apricity is a beautiful feeling. It means the warmth of the sun in winter. Surprising, life-enhancing, even healing. Is it asking too much of Apricity, Chantelle Nicholson’s Mayfair restaurant to arouse that feeling? I hope not. I head there just days after reading an FT investigation into the dark side of fine dining in Copenhagen, where exploitation is rife, and even the good guys turn out not to be so good after all. The report left me wondering, who can we trust?
Chantelle Nicholson’s name springs to mind. The New Zealand-born chef made her name under Marcus Wareing at The Gilbert Scott and later Tredwells, which she took over as chef patron in 2018 and won a Michelin green star. At Apricity, she’s doing all the right things: aiming for zero waste; foraging; supporting small-scale producers; championing regenerative agriculture. The design too ‘closes the loop’ with lampshades made of coffee grounds and a bar clad with waste timber. On top of all this, Nicholson addresses what sustainability means for her people. She’s scrapped tipping; introduced a five-day week; and adopted an 11pm curfew so staff can get home safely. It’s not apricity I’m feeling, but it’s certainly a warm glow.
The dining room is buzzing at lunchtime. There’s a set lunch at £35 for two courses, and two tasting menus at £68 or £85 (service is included, remember). We choose à la carte because the picky bits and sides sound irresistible such as fennel crackers with ‘wasted dip’, cured meats made by a female charcutier at Crown and Queue, and Cornish ‘earlies’ with brown butter. Every dish, every drink, tells a story, which the lovely staff communicate succinctly without interrupting our lunchtime badinage.
We learn all about the chap behind our Bourgogne Aligoté who goes beyond biodynamics to work ‘geobiologically’ (something to do with the moon and rocks in his vineyard): we’re sold. We hear also about the Canary Wharf lettuce in a flavourbomb salad with miso aioli and crispy kale; the mushrooms grown in Elstree with Flanders wheat now saved from extinction; and ‘yesterday’s bread’ reformed into those fantastic fennel crackers.
Lest it all sound too worthy, consider the pork belly, which comes with a little kimchi pastry made with pork fat; also, the ‘chouxnut’, deep-fried, and devilish, with cream and apple, and a heavenly hot chocolate mousse with brown sugar custard. If anything, there are times when there’s too much of a good thing. The deep-fried mushrooms in our main course soak up oil like a sponge, and with punchy XO and wild garlic, they make for an intense eating experience.
But in a way, that’s Apricity. It does take risks with its off-beat wines, supercharged flavours and forward-thinking service, but it may be just the breath of fresh air we need.