An elegantly-housed Roux family operation, opposite Broadcasting House, whose impressive all-round standards make it a rarity among London’s grand hotel dining rooms; the set lunch, in particular, offers spectacular value.
he English like to think they’ve got the whole restaurant thing sussed nowadays. But we’re still waiting for the English chef who can demonstrate that he can build an upmarket restaurant empire with real staying power.
For the French, however, this sort of thing seems to come almost as second nature, so it’s perhaps no surprise that the Roux brothers – the Frenchmen who almost single-handedly imported haute cuisine to London in the ’60s – are still going strong. The family still runs both London’s only grand classic restaurant, Le Gavroche, and the UK’s longest-established grand out-of-town restaurant, the Waterside Inn.
There are also various Roux-branded operations in London and abroad, whose standards are rarely less than ‘solid’. Of late, there seems to have been something of a push, with new London operations in Scotland, in Westminster (at RICS), and now at the Langham Hotel.
The newcomer in the grand Marylebone hotel – which, as it happens, was one of the world’s first grand hotels when it was built – is simply a great addition to London. A first-week lunch – two people between them sampling most of the set menu – found just nothing to complain about, and, for £46 a head, this was one of the best-value meals we have ever had in London. (That price includes a bottle between two of a surprisingly good Australian riesling/viognier from the ungrabbily-priced wine list.)
That’s not to say that there is anything startling about the cuisine: it’s just that everything was done at least well, and often very well. All of the three breads in the basket (including, for once, some semi-decent baguette) were good, as were the appetisers of warm honeyed nuts and plumptious olives. Both starters – a chowder, and a winter salad with chestnuts – were beautifully presented, and with taste to match.
A main courses of pollack (again prettily presented, with romanesco cauliflower) perhaps outscored the pot au feu (twinned with the English sauce ‘Albert’), but the chocolate tart we shared for pudding was pretty much unimprovable in either presentation or taste. The petits-fours, including an excellent mango jelly, were also very much in the first division.
Service is solicitous but not remotely overbearing, and the dining room is physically perhaps the best in town – a lofty and classically elegant chamber, it has has been updated in a style which is entirely sympathetic. Just another aspect of an operation which those in favour of ‘updated traditional’ London style may find uniquely attractive all-round.