Rob Roy Cameron is the most important chef you’ve (probably) never heard of. At the tender age of 26 he was charged with running the kitchen at Ferran and Albert Adrià’s 41 Degrees restaurant in Barcelona, which was generally considered the spiritual successor to legendary Roses restaurant El Bulli. Two years later he was heading up another of the group’s openings, top-end Mexican Hoja Santa.
Despite his outstanding pedigree – his CV also includes Gidleigh Park and several other multi-Michelin starred venues – he is not a widely-known chef on these shores. His debut London project opened in late 2016 in Dalston: a trendy restaurant and bar created in partnership with cocktail maestro Tony Conigliaro that combines a modern take on Japanese food with creative cocktails. Untitled has been well-received but it hasn’t exactly propelled this mild-mannered chef into the limelight.
It’s hoped that Cameron’s latest venture – another link-up with Conigliaro – will remedy this. Gazelle is located on Mayfair’s Albemarle Street and sees the 32-year-old pursue his own brand of highly distinctive and, at times, challenging cooking.
The first and second-floor restaurant is part of landlord Trophaeum’s project to give the street a more contemporary feel. The dining room manages to be striking without being over the top with its gold velvet banquettes, marble tables, exposed brickwork, modern art and hot pink feature wall. The upstairs bar is darker and more evenings orientated, but retains the grown-up feel of below.
The restaurant menu is designed to be shared, with around a dozen savoury dishes on offer, although this will be extended as Cameron’s tiny kitchen beds in. The food is clean, progressive and tricky to pigeon-hole; far less technical than the latter part of the chef’s CV might suggest. That said, there are some clever dishes that play with the diner’s expectations in a similar way to some of the Adrià’s restaurants (a dish of mushrooms sliced to resemble long pasta in a pine nut-based sauce is reminiscent of a famous dish at Tickets).
But, in the main, the food is strikingly original. Squid with guanciale and girolles is an incredibly clever and effective play on spaghetti carbonara. A salad of bitter herbs and leaves is paired with a parmesan cream and anchovy bones. The latter is considered a delicacy in Spain, but is pretty much unheard of on these shores. More challenging still are the main courses, which are simplistic in the extreme. Iberico pork presa is accompanied only by an unthickened juice of salted carrots while a thin strip of wagyu dusted with a powder of juniper and salted plum comes with nothing else at all.
Cameron’s sous chef is Ben Morgan, who held the same role at Mikael Jonsson’s Hedone restaurant in Chiswick. Coincidentally or otherwise, a number of chefs in the brigade are also ex-Hedone. The kitchen also services Gazelle’s upstairs bar, which offers a brief menu of small plates including corn tostada, chive omelette and spicy tuna. Given the level of the cooking, it’s difficult to see how such a small kitchen could possibly service a full restaurant and bar, but Cameron is confident it will work.
Conigliaro – who made his name at The Zetter Townhouse in Clerkenwell and 69 Colebrook Row in Islington – is one of the world’s most celebrated bartenders and his cocktail list at Gazelle does not disappoint. He combines a cerebral, research-based approach with a reverence for the classics. The list includes Babydoll (rum, rhubarb liqueur, lemon, egg white); Dreaming of salmon (whisky, plum shrub); and Twinkle (elderflower, Perrier Jouët champagne, vodka, lemon twist). As the restaurant evolves the food menu and cocktail menus will become more entwined with drinks matched to dishes (this is currently something of a work in progress).
Gazelle’s wine list is small but skilfully put together, with entry-level prices that are on the high side, even for the area: champagne starts at £100 and the cheapest bottle of white wine is £44 (house red is £31).
Gazelle is an edgy proposition for Mayfair and one that has the potential to be quite divisive. That said, there’s no denying Cameron’s talent and potential. The presence of other progressive establishments nearby – including Gymkhana, Indian Accent and the newly opened Hide – is a good omen, too. It will be interesting to see how Gazelle is received by both the critics and diners.
48 Albemarle Street, Mayfair