M RAW is a newcomer to the London fine dining scene, and as well boasting the status of being London’s first ever entirely gluten-free restaurant, it has already been Shortlisted as Best New Restaurant 2016 in the Restaurant Magazine Awards. Head Chef Michael Reid, who trained at both Le Gavroche and Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, opened M Victoria St.
The stunning, spacious restaurant features a modern, almost night-club dining like design with vibrant music and a lively crowd. Redolent of an ultra-cool New York style club restaurant bar, the M restaurant space in Victoria houses the 100% gluten-free M RAW restaurant, as well as a world class ‘M Grill’ Dining Room, Public and Private Members Bars, private dining space (which is well worth booking for birthday parties), event spaces and a wine tasting room, all of which one enters via a surreptitiously laid back ‘M Wine Store’.
Let us be clear: this isn’t your average bland ‘raw’ style food diner. There are no drab wheatgrass shots or carrot sticks in sight. No, this is a super sexy, suave, post-work-drinks-into-the-weekend style venue where the coolest crowd can be found. And the food? Well, given it’s been ranked in the top 15 healthiest restaurants of Epicure by Men’s Health, the guilt free drinking and dining factor is a bonus.
Our wonderful host greeted us for the night, Andre Mannini, the restaurant director, who offered glasses of Veuve Clicquot by a roaring fireplace in the private members’ bar before our dinner. The space features an elegant, low-key bar with an array of whisky’s and cognacs worthy of the best London private members’ bars. On a Friday night, the crowd were your classy London post-work crowd enjoying a few drinks, mixed with groups of birthday parties, celebrations, and couples.
The actual RAW restaurant dining space is informal and very relaxed, with relatively loud lounge music, dim lighting, and an open counter to watch the chefs prepare the food. This is a space for a casual dinner with friends or a date, whilst the adjacent Grill restaurant – where you can order the RAW food menu too – is much larger, surrounded by large, circular private booth table spaces for a more intimate feel. We chose to eat here, hoping to focus on the food more with the music quieter and the vibe more formal.
The RAW food menu is extensive, and features an array of sashimi, beef tartares, tempura, salads, vegetables, and mixed protein bowls. It oozes health and goodness yet maintains the fine dining edge with its focus on exceptional quality ingredients and complex recipes – including smoked Wagyu tartare with apples, hen’s egg and foie gras.
We began the meal with a portion of their homemade bread – brown, nutty, delicious – with an unbelievably good (and interesting) beef fat butter. Whilst it’s probably not for the vegetarians amongst us, it was incredible and well worth sampling, despite the volume of food on the menu to choose from. We nibbled on kale chips (crispy and smokey), alongside vegetable crisps with creamy, smooth guacamole, as we perused the menu.
It is worth noting, that the M RAW staff were particularly brilliant – attentive, helpful, and humorous – which rendered the menu-choosing experience an enjoyable part of the meal.
Following their recommendations, we went for the sashimi mixed platter to start – which featured sumptuous, premium calibre raw sashimi with soy and wasabi – before enjoying both of the beef tartare’s on the menu. The Gailician beef tartare with red Sicilian prawns, egg yolk, smoked mayonnaise, garlic crisps and aged fat was fantastic – a heart, rich portion (large enough to share, but small enough to enjoy alone). I’m a huge tartare fan and rarely order it outside of Paris, but this was an excellent recommendation and I look forward to trying it again. This was my favourite tartare, whilst my guest’s favourite was the second choice – the smoked Wagyu tartare. This was a favourite of our waiter’s and its easy to see why: I’d never tried such a rich, creamy, smoky, tartare before – and it was incredibly moreish but also filling. A surprising find of a combination that I highly recommend.
After the sashimi and two tartare’s, I was already full…but we had more to come. So, it’s worth noting the welcoming hearty, rich portions – despite this being a ‘healthy’ restaurant. Our second starter was the tempura of Ike Jime Baby Octopus which came clad impressively in black flour. Light and crispy, the tempura batter was oddly delicious on its own and the presentation was another delightful novelty of the restaurant. So far, we were extremely impressed.
By this point – we really were very, very full, but still were eager to try the mains. Whilst we could have ordered off the grill menu and had beef on a bed of courgetti spaghetti (another brilliant health feature), we decided to sample two of the interesting mixed ‘bowls’ that RAW offers. I went for the Asian bowl – a large bow of banh xeo, lettuce, bean sprouts, steamed greens and cucumber salad – to cleanse my palate and add some vegetable goodness to my meal (it was surprising, actually, to be in a ‘raw’ restaurant and still not see a single carrot in sight). My guest went for the protein bowl that featured unbelievable argentine sirloin steak, courgetti spaghetti, avocado, sweet potato (delicious and creamy), spiced tomato salsa and a buckwheat taco. The combination worked well offering a hearty vegetable base with one of the best steaks we’d ever tried on top. Everything was fantastic – more fantastic than we had anticipated – and the whole raw, gluten-free dining experience was excellent. A really, truly excellent meal.
We were more than full by the time dessert came around but the kind staff insisted we try their choices of a delicious light, fluffy, mango sponge cake with tangy sorbet, and a rich, indulgent, flour-free chocolate cake that my guest devoured. Topped off with some of the finest espresso martini’s I’ve had in London, we were both merry, stuffed, and very pleased with the meal. But let me be clear: whilst we were full, the food was neither heavy nor fatty. Everything felt healthy, the ingredients were super-fresh, and the tastes were truly of a fine-dining calibre. I will most certainly be returning for another hearty, ‘raw’ meal soon. Try it – you will be glad you did.
M Victoria Street
70 Victoria Street
London SW1E 6SQ