So suited is it to the manicured, perma-tanned, braying bunch, that it has featured in various episodes of the “structured” reality TV show as a setting for the cast’s catty confrontations and cocktail-swilling debauchery.
The restaurant, which opened in its current guise in November 2010, is set in a converted, three-story Georgian townhouse at number 86 Fulham Road; a space once occupied by the somewhat less salubrious Cactus Blue on a stretch of the Fulham Road known as The Beach, due to the toned, tanned denizens seen sashaying up and down it in Twenty8Twelve dresses, beige Chihuahuas named Fluffy and Coco peeping out of their “amaze” Louis Vuitton totes.
Founded by posh party boys George Adams and Charlie Kearns, who cut their teeth at tiki nightclub Kukui in Oxford and the Coco Club in Swiss ski resort Verbier, affectionately known as Fulham-sur-neige, Eighty-Six initially lassoed Mark Broadbent of Bluebird fame as head chef, though Frenchman Simon Levy, previously of Koffmann’s at The Berkeley, has since taken over the reins, giving the menu a decidedly French kiss. Stylish modern European food is the order of the day, ticking trend boxes from foraging to retro classics en route.
Despite its somewhat frivolous location, the owners are serious about serving well thought out dishes made with fresh, seasonal ingredients. Prettified by designLSM, the team behind the breathtakingly beautiful Galvin La Chapelle, the three-tiered venue begins with a well-stocked, dimly-lit bar on the ground floor.
An industrial spiral staircase leads to a lounge area filled with framed pictures of besuited, bushy-tailed, tweed-clad badgers, foxes and ferrets, while on the top floor, the gold-panelled restaurant filled with Hollywood flash bulbs is crowned by a mirrored ceiling – add pink Champagne on ice and you have an Eagles hit, and more gold than Michael Phelps’ medal cabinet.
Our buff, bronzed waiter, Cedric Martinez, with glinting brown eyes, raven hair, immaculately clipped stubble and abs you could grate white truffles on, is fresh from LA, having recently caused controversy in reality TV show The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
Striking up a conversation about the besuited animals adorning the walls, Cedric reveals he used to have a ferret called Tequila. My six-foot-seven Finnish dining companion and I begin our meal with an amuse bouche of herb-flecked goat’s cheese on a supermodel-thin bruschetta served with a seasonal strawberry puree. Kudos to the chef for the addition of strawberry, which added welcome sweetness to the salty cheese.
A starter of venison carpaccio, truffle oil, pea shoots and parsnip crisps is indecently moreish, the ruby red, razor-thin slithers of meat umami rich and silky on the palate, enhanced by the crunch of the parsnips and lifted by the earthy aromatics of the salad – like diving into a freshly rained on vegetable patch with a knife and fork.
A sweet and meaty second starter of foie gras, duck rillette and blood orange marmalade teased the taste buds, the audacious addition of marmalade freshening the intensely rich and velvety foie gras, adding zip, zing and citrus zest to the dish, which featured a rogue fold of uninvited ham, while adroitly cutting through the fat.
The wine list is small and perfectly formed, featuring the likes of exciting English white Chapel Down Bacchus, and a selection of Bordeaux classed growths from the notoriously tannic 1986 vintage, including Château Mouton-Rothschild, Haut-Brion, Pichon Lalande, Cos d’Estournel and Leoville Barton.
Mark-ups on the majority of the wines are incredibly fair. I opt for a £38 bottle of the bright, fruit forward Koura Bay Blue Duck Pinot Noir 2010 from the Awatere Valley in Marlborough, New Zealand, which had a lobster rather than a duck on the label and delivered a dense, vibrant, black cherry-filled mouthful, with hints of Oriental spices, licks of salt and a liquorice finish.
My main – a swan-white hunk of pan-seared halibut, arrived atop scallop and crab ravioli in a white wine sauce. Though beautifully cooked, I develop food envy at the sight of my companion’s Herculean veal chop glinting in the half-light, its delightfully juicy interior, the colour of a flushed cheek, melting in the mouth.
The accompanying, chunky, chicken salt fat chips are exemplary – crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. Green-eyed, I order a bowl of my own while nibbling on a modest but sensational side of sesame-doused Asian veg.
Room must be made for pudding – or, more specifically, for the Brandy apple tart drizzled with vanilla anglaise fashioned into exquisite folds of feather-light pastry that shatters like glass with a delicate tap of the spoon, revealing a base filled with warm toffee sauce so comforting, I’m tempted to ask Cedric for a blanket and a bedtime story.
Instead, he brings me a small glass filled with the golden elixir that is Château Giraud Sauternes 2008, which rewards with a honeysuckle nose and a dried apricot, acacia and peach palate.
At times appearing like a nightclub masquerading as a restaurant, the funky house soundtrack is unapologetically loud, though perhaps this is a thoughtful touch, so the beautiful people merely have to pout and pose in their beloved’s direction rather than converse.
In an apt twist of fate, on my way out I clock Richard Dinan from Made in Chelsea cross-legged at an outdoor table, loafing in suede loafers with a trio of perfectly preened friends. Masked by a mop of blond hair, I glance in his direction and he seems pleased at the recognition, almost as if he’d parked himself by the entrance in a deliberate bid to get laid in Chelsea.
Eighty-Six, 86 Fulham Road, London, SW3 6HR; Tel: +44 (0)20 7052 9620