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Written by Timmy Coles-Liddle

Firstly, it is important to convey that from London’s West End to South Woodford - by way of the Underground - is painless and seamless – less than 30 minutes door-to-door, in fact. Upon arrival, the pale grey façade of the former Victorian public house is both striking and welcoming. An open kitchen to the left provides a narrow chef’s table where four diners can observe the excitement and thrill of a live kitchen. Four generously spaced tables share a luxurious banquette, which is where we dined, and the main dining room, located to the rear of the building, is spacious and elegantly decorated in blacks and dusty greys. 

Head Chef Ben Murphy, a protégée of Pierre Koffman at The Berkeley in Knightsbridge, brings a very stylistic and playful approach and attention to detail to the restaurant. With a CV which reads like a who’s who of superb dining and which includes L’Epicure at L’hotel Bristol in Paris and Mayfair’s The Greenhouse, Murphy’s focus on using seasonal British produce, coupled with a playful modern cooking technique and gallic knowledge in authentic fine dining ensures generous flavours and intricate but not overly fussy dishes which both intrigue and excite.

My companion’s veal cheek was a show-stealer – both in size and tenderness. A pile of vivid green parsley, the kind of beautiful green only seen in children’s drawings, perched happily above the veal and was a delight. My starter proved just as enticing. Two small strips of mackerel were full of flavour and accompanied by sweet charred cucumber and a welcome moist ricotta. 

Will Yarney, the restaurant’s lively general manager, is both knowledgeable and attentive. I was happy to note that nuts feature highly in Murphy’s cooking and the main courses continued this trend. The braised confit of lamb was succulent, meaty and lovingly roasted. Nestled beside the lamb was a pungent but not unwelcome aubergine and smashed peanuts. My Dedham Vale 28-day aged beef was cooked rare to perfection and had all the oaky meatiness of a really decent cut of British beef. Playfully joined by an inventive stilton crumble and cooling poached pair.  

Will’s very astute suggestion of bringing us a portion of Pont Neuf – the restaurant’s version of fat chips - the most fluffy and light filling ensconced in a crispy and crunchy shell, was met with pure joy. Each dish is served with a panache and beauty that deserves accolade and if rumours are to be believed, the team at The Woodford might do well to keep an eye out for inclusion in next year’s Michelin Guide.

Pop down now before it becomes so achingly popular you can’t get in.