Dining

Little Britain

Charles Phan's latest restaurant has an English accent

"When I was telling people that we were opening a British restaurant, they'd say, 'Dude, that's heavy food!'" says The Coachman chef Ross Wunderlich. "To lighten it up is the key. We're in San Francisco, not London."

Charles Phan's latest joint isn't Vietnamese, and it's not your classic British restaurant either. The boxy, condo-building space (last the home of Heaven's Dog) is primarily lit by walls of glassed-in honey, salvaged from the shuttered Out the Door in the Westfield Centre, that turn diners the color of polished brass.

Erik Adkins' cocktail menu of 18th- and 19th-century oddities appeals more to contemporary curiosities than anglophiles.

And then there's the food. While Wunderlich was inspired by meals at St. John and Hereford Road in London--witness the marrow, tripe and black pudding dishes--our favorites give equal tribute to his time cooking at Bar Tartine and A16.

Sticky toffee pudding | Carrots, lentils and smoked date jam
Fat stalks of asparagus ($14) were propped up on a tuft of brandade flanked by "mushy peas" just popped from their pods. A walnut-sized dab of smoked-date jam at the center of a plate of baby carrots ($14), lentils and dill-parsley sauce worked a witchy spell, deepening the flavors of everything it touched.

Wunderlich took the potted crab ($16) he saw all over London and, by binding sweet Dungeness meat with butter and crab fat, made it his own.

It could be, in fact, a new San Francisco classic.

The Coachman 1148 Mission St. San Francisco CA 94103 415-813-1701

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