[This restaurant is now closed]
Madsen, a restaurant in the shadow of an Underground station. (Yes, dear overseas reader, some London Underground stations do cast shadows, at least when the sun is strong enough to cast one.) OK, so not exactly in the shadow of but just across the road from, and opposite the Lamborghini garage. The very location held hope of something a bit special.
I have visited Stockholm and a glance at Madsen transported me right back there. Tables outside stylish restaurants. Chairs draped with blankets, freezing cold and flurries of snow. (How did Madsen’s management arrange that?)
Mushroom-white walls, contemporary artwork, comfy banquettes offered a refuge from the frigid conditions. This spot smacks of designed informality. It’s evidently high-end but contrives to be accessible, friendly and welcoming. Everything was as I had hoped and brought back warm memories of lunches with my Danish auntie. Flickering candles, heavy linen napkins and a beer called God lager (Hmmm, so that’s how they arranged the snow – friends in high places!).
It’s a rare genre of eatery, being Scandinavian. We might feel we know a bit about this cuisine as we have had the meatballs at IKEA, but Madsen is the real thing. And how different can meatballs be? Very. Consider a Smartcar (no hostile mail please, I am sure they are admirably fit for purpose) and compare with the aforementioned Lamborghini. It’s like that with meatballs.
But we didn’t start with meatballs. We tucked into smushi. No I didn’t say sushi. These are small, typically Scandinavian open sandwiches: Smushi is a smaller version of the traditional Danish open sandwich called ”Smørrebrød”. We enjoyed the thinly sliced roast beef with remoulade topped with crispy onions, pickled cucumber and fresh horseradish on rye bread, and “Hamburgerryg” which is succulent smoked pork loin topped with tomato, potato and mayo. Each was served on dark bread and might be described as small by Madsen but the quantity of topping is sufficient to be considered a grown-up classy sandwich. Our other starter was a Herring Platter, a medley of three fishes: onion-, mustard- and Madeira-marinated herring served with garnish and rye bread. This is a treat for any fish lover. Each artfully arranged rosette had a subtly different flavour with a presentation that was almost too good to disturb.
You will be disappointed if I don’t mention those meatballs. Madsen’s (the restaurant is named after Charlotte Madsen who is the proprietor) are several cuts above the average. Made from a combination of pork and veal these light “Frikadeller” were served with potato salad, pickled cucumber and rye bread. This was a surprisingly hearty meal.
My fish dish was another substantial plateful: “Stjerneskud,” fried breaded filet of plaice on sourdough bread topped with steamed plaice, asparagus, red lumpfish roe and mayonnaise. The ingredients are presented in an attractive mound, not the over-engineered tower of some too-self-aware restaurants. I often have the feeling that there are chefs behind a two-way mirror watching the discomfort of diners as they consider how to dismantle their order. The breaded fish was light and golden and the plaice was cooked to opaque melting tenderness. Lots of fish. Nothing mean or skimpy, just a good portion of delicious food and attractive presentation. These dishes don’t pose, they beckon.
A lesser reviewer or mere mortal would have stepped away from the table at that point but I felt I had to make another sacrifice for my art. I ordered a cookie and coffee, and my guest manfully picked the Baked Caramel Crème based on Madsen’s Choko stout, served with soft vanilla ice cream. This proved to be quite a culinary triumph and should be a signature dish. Granted, it doesn’t sound promising but it is memorable, delicious and a must-try. It is a sweet concoction with an air of ale, or is it a hint of stout with a creamy finish, or is it rich and interesting and to be discovered for yourself? Yes, I’ll settle for that.
My Kransekage Marzipan biscuit was almost a cake with a soft texture and an almondy hit. Chocolate-dipped ends and a drizzle of icing made this a little sweet fancy. An ideal light end to a lovely meal with many surprises, and all of them pleasant.
Madsen is definitely as good as it looks. A discreet and charming private dining room for a dozen or so can be used for celebrations and corporate lunch/dinner meetings and at no extra charge.There is attention to detail that sorts a great restaurant from a mediocre one. I defy anyone not to be quietly impressed by this slice of Scandinavia, transposed to West London. Its dishes are naturally healthy. You’ll want to eat what Madsen provides because it’s delicious and it just happens to be good for you. This is one of my favourite recently-reviewed restaurants and it’s a pleasure to recommend it.
Madsen Scandinavian restaurant
20 Old Brompton Road, London SW7 3DL
[This restaurant is now closed]
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018