Core by Clare Smyth, Notting Hill

We had a truly memorable lunch at three Michelin starred Restaurant Gordon Ramsay back in 2013. At the time, the kitchens were headed up by Clare Smyth, who has since gone on to open this little beauty, Core, in Notting Hill.

It’s a confident operation, which you’d expect from someone with such a fine dining background. There are a staff galore, the sort who fold your napkin when you go for a wee. All 300 of them individually say hello as you walk to your table. You feel like you’re in safe hands.

We pass the glass fronted kitchen where chefs prepare dishes in a meticulous and calm manner. From the dining room however, which is plain with a few Michelin Guides and fancy wine glasses on shelves to liven it up, you can’t see the kitchen which seems a shame.

Snacks kick things off; tomato and basil gougères; jellied eel, toasted seaweed and malt vinegar; and crispy smoked duck wing, which arrives in a smoke filled closh. The gourgères are light as anything while the de boned duck wing is sticky and rich.

We order from the a la carte menu (£75 for three courses). I’m feeling healthy so order the Charlotte potato which comes with herring, caviar and trout roe. It’s a luxurious dish – the potato acting a boat in the sea of dulse (seaweed) beurre blanc.

Isle of Mull scallop has a pretty presentation, sitting in its shell atop a bowl of sea herbs and flowers. It’s cooked over wood giving it a subtle smokiness while the sauce has a real flavour of the sea, helped along by small chunks of the scallop’s orange roe.

Crab Royale is another looker with lots of little bits to enjoy. There’s a strong bisquey/brothy/consomméy thing in a wine glass which is like crab nectar and a steamed Colchester crab doughnut. Both are a delight. The creamy crab sauce surrounding the delicate crab is velvety.

For main, skate is surrounded by Morecambe Bay shrimps in brown butter. It’s the more simple of our main dishes but it’s solid cooking. Oxtail stuffed Roscoff onion comes with beef short rib which is firm but tender, not mushy like you’d expect. Vegetables seem to have the spotlight as much as the meat here.

We take advantage of the season and order the roast grouse with tangy red cabbage. It’s a dream; ruby red flesh all tender and not in the slightest bit bitter, sign the game bird hasn’t been hung for too long.

We’re kindly brought all the desserts, all of which are a real highlight of the meal. Chocolate and hazelnut crémeux is light and not sickly. The salted caramel and peanuts give an instant Snickers flavour which is right up my alley.

Pain perdu, a French pudding made up of leftover bread, is a spongy little thing, all soft and sticky. Peach sorbet and sliced peaches add both freshness and sweetness.

Lemonade parfait is topped with an impressively fizzy moussy concoction which actually tastes of lemonade. There’s a strong flavour of honey running through it all which is most pleasant.

‘Pear and verbena’ is accompanied by a cracking Poire William sorbet which is boozy as hell. The spherical meringue brings sweetness while the rest acts as the perfect palate cleanser. We finish with mini warm chocolate tarts, which is a final reminder the pastry section are firing on all cylinders.

Sure, the prices at Core are undoubtedly whopping (our bill certainly makes us go “Core!”) but for a fine dining restaurant in Notting Hill, we feel it money well spent.

Would we go back? Yes