Restaurant review: The Woodford
PUBLISHED: 13:51 29 June 2016 | UPDATED: 13:51 29 June 2016
A beautiful refined menu in a relaxed award-winning environment
The Woodford only opened its doors in March, but already this innovative restaurant has been nominated for awards and head chef, Ben Murphy, couldn’t be happier.
‘We had an idea and it’s surpassed all our expectations,’ he says, ‘It’s an incredible boost.’
That idea was to create a menu of refined dishes in a venue with warmth and personality. He explains: ‘The food is pretty complex but we wanted to keep the front of house more relaxed. Our chefs go to the tables and talk customers through the complimentary canapés and petit fours they each receive at the beginning and end of their meal.
‘It’s great to engage with diners and to step out of the kitchen and actually see people enjoying the dishes we’ve created.’
The Woodford has already achieved what has previously been regarded as near impossible, persuading diners from central London to take the tube out east, but Ben is also keen to encourage the local community to pay them a visit.
He explains: ‘Of course it’s great to be a destination venue but we want to appeal to everyone and we’re really keen to open up that fine dining experience to those who wouldn’t necessarily think it’s for them. Fine dining doesn’t have to mean expensive, our set lunch menu starts at £19 because we want it to be accessible to everyone.’
That experience begins upon entering the stunning Grade II listed building on Woodford High Road where they can enjoy champagne or a cocktail in the elegant surrounds of The Churchill Lounge ahead of their meal.
As they take their seats, each table is personally handed a box of tissue by a chef, in reality delicious smoked candyfloss. Ben says: ‘It adds an element of fun and intrigue and usually makes them laugh.’
The Woodford’s menu features modern european cuisine with Ben’s own innovative twists. Ben says: ‘We’ve set a high standard and, for us, it’s all about that attention to detail and incorporating that element of surprise to keep things exciting.’
The Woodford boasts several menus and, already, dishes like the rice pudding souffle and the monkfish with banana, roasted shallot and red wine are firm favourites.
There’s a private dining room for up to 20 and also the Chef’s table for five which overlooks the kitchen, offering customers the unique opportunity to see culinary experts at work. Ben says: ‘There’s lots of banter and laughs, it really is another way of involving people in the experience.’
At just 25, Ben already has an impressive CV having won awards including Young National Chef of the Year and a World Skills gold medal and worked in Michelin-starred restaurants in London, Paris and New York, however he has no doubt about his biggest achievement.
‘The Woodford is what has made me proudest,’ he says. ‘I’ve been lucky with my career and the people I’ve worked for but the dream was always to have my own place.’
Such is the success of his latest venture that The Woodford is already being tipped for a Michelin star. Ben says, ‘For me it’s about guaranteeing a great experience that keeps customers coming back, but I confess, a Michelin star would be the icing on the cake.’
159 High Road, South Woodford E18 2PA
020 8504 5952. www.thewoodford-e18.com