Situated a hairsbreadth away from the bright lights of Picadilly Circus is a gem amongst London’s many gourmet offerings. You could be forgiven for not knowing about this place, its unassuming exterior betrays the bold experimentation going on within. It would however be silly to ignore the restaurant, which, rightly so, stands alone in its corner of St. James’s Market. If ever there was a time to apply the adage “don’t judge a book by its cover”, it would be for Scully St James’s. The exterior favours simplicity, but inside its doors, it’s the complete opposite with a modern approach to fine dining that removes aloofness in favour of comfort, fun, and flavour.
The ethos of the menu in its most simple explanation is Scully. In what is chef Ramael Scully‘s first solo venture he wholeheartedly brings his colourful story to life within the slate-grey dining room. Cultures coming together is nothing out of the ordinary for Scully. His mother is of Chinese/Indian descent, and his father is Irish Balinese, yet Scully was born in Malaysia and then raised in Sydney, Australia. That’s of course only a slice of the story. Pursuing the culinary arts from a young age has taken Scully across the globe working in kitchens which led to a huge opportunity in 2011. As Yotam Ottolenghi launched his fine dining restaurant Nopi, the culinary legend called upon Scully to be its head chef and he spearheaded the kitchen t0 gain and retain its status as one of the most talked about restaurants in the Capital.
Picking up plenty of tips along the way as well as a vast knowledge of local ingredients, flavour profiles, and developing his techniques is what makes Scully St James’s what it is today. It is a menu of fusion. So much fusion in fact that as you scan the menu, you’ll see elements in dishes from Argentina, Malaysia, Japan, Turkey, and several more. It is a menu with plenty to offer as long as you’re ready to brave taking a leap into the unknown. With an excellent à la carte menu, the experimental chef has recently added tasting menus that can be paired with a wine or non-alcoholic flight.
The part you really want to hear about is the food though right? On our visit, we opted to go for both the non-vegan and vegan tasting menus as well as one wine flight and one non-alcoholic flight. Going into it I knew there were eight courses, but I severely underestimated just how satisfied I was going to be upon the end of the meal. In all honesty by the time, I’d finished the last savoury course I wasn’t sure I was going to have space for the desserts, but the thought behind the menu and the pacing it’s served at clearly paid off as I finished every bite.
If you opt for the tasting menu, you start with welcome snacks followed by four savoury courses, a palette cleansing sorbet, a dessert course, and finally petit fours. The standouts for me were the arepa with eggplant sambal and bergamot labneh, the Urfa chilli short rib pastrami with turnip and salted radish shrub, and the strawberry foam topped yoghurt sorbet dessert.
The arepa was bursting with flavour, and the eggplant sambal (Scully’s mum’s recipe) paired perfectly with it offering a subtle spice and contrasting texture to the crunchy but light fried maize dough – if you’re not big on spice don’t worry as the labneh keeps that under control. The Urfa chilli short rib pastrami had the most incredible texture, it melted in the mouth and had me clamouring for my next bite. The dessert is one you have to try for yourself as the closest comparison I can give to you in terms of the flavour profile, texture and temperature is a Twister ice lolly – and that is a huge simplification of the dishes elements that worked well individually but even better in tandem.
If you want to know about each and every dish, you’re just going to have to get yourself down to Scully St James’s to experience it yourself. Vegans rest assured, my partner had the vegan tasting menu (which also includes the arepa), and they were even more impressed with their meal than I was with mine. The wine flight worked extremely well with some very unique and quirky wines on display that were the perfect pairing. The non-alcoholic flight however is where the real fun is to be had. It is like nothing you will have ever experienced. Much as with the wine flight, the drinks pair well with their corresponding dishes, but it is definitely a road for the risk takers – trust me on this one.
As soon as you step into Scully St James’s you will feel at ease. The staff are superb – attentive and friendly without being overbearing. It can’t be understated just how much they add to your experience, especially if you try one of the tasting menus. Their sommelier, Carolina, in particular, was a highlight of our visit – supremely knowledgeable in wines (and the rest of Scully’s offerings to be honest), she was bubbly and always seemed to arrive at the table at just the right time. She was thankfully the rule rather than the exception, the whole front of house team were fantastic ambassadors for the food, drinks, and the one of a kind ‘fine dining sprinkled with fun‘ atmosphere of Scully St James’s.
Whilst we didn’t experience this on our visit, there is some premium real estate when it comes to seating in Scully’s. If you’re lucky, you can end up on seats lining the marble counter that runs along the kitchen giving you views into the kitchen and a chance to interact with chef Scully as your meal is prepared. It is a twist on the traditional chef’s table, but what else would you expect of a restaurant that prides itself on its innovation? Don’t worry if you don’t end up at the chef’s table, no matter where you end up in the dining room you’ll be comfortable and well looked after.
Scully St James’s is constantly bustling with conversation contrary to the more typical hushed dining rooms associated with fine dining. This is further aided by the fantastic selection of background music which leans towards more Motown vibes than Classical numbers. It’s the perfect spot to gather up the most adventurous foodies you know and explore fantastic food that is sure to impress all.