Harden's survey result
For fans this civilised Mayfair chamber provides “a quintessential London dining experience”, and it wins particular praise both as a “power” lunch or “delicious breakfast” spot. Mark Hix’s régime here has almost as many detractors as fans however, who feel the traditional cuisine is too “average” and “overpriced”.
For “a grand hotel dining room experience”, this “civilised” Mayfair landmark fits the bill, and its “well-spaced tables” and “professional” service add to its appeal “for a discreet business conversation”. Its “classic British cuisine” is dependable for fans, but to critics it’s “disappointing”.
Fans of this “discreet and quiet” Mayfair “oasis” approve of its “classy”, business-friendly grandeur, including for a “civilised breakfast”; “despite being well-appointed, it feels somewhat soulless” however, and even with Mark Hix’s involvement the cooking is “very mainstream” and “very expensive”.
Brown's Grill (The Albemarle) W1
Old-school in all the best ways, this (relaunched) Mayfair restaurant is one of two truly English grand hotel dining rooms in town (the other being the Goring); a soothing and clubby sort of place, it offers an experience of uniformly high quality, but at prices which give nothing away.
Favourable first impressions of the panelled grill room of Rocco Forte's venerable Mayfair hotel are reinforced by the charming and plentiful staff, who help inject a surprisingly animated air. The overall feeling is like a more spacious version of the Ivy (but with much larger tables, as well as more space between them).
Also in the same way as the Theatreland legend, this elegant but no-fuss establishment has a feeling like a rather smart club, and, on our visit, the mainly male and soberly-suited clientele were very much in keeping. (The crowd, though, is notably less Establishment than at the most obviously comparable establishment, the Goring.)
The menu is English, and totally unapologetic about it. It is served in a suitably no-nonsense style. Cornish fish soup, for example, is presented in a copper pan, and then deposited in an old-fashioned soup plate, with no Ã la franÃ§aise accoutrements. It is no disrespect to the richly-flavoured liquid, however, to say that it might have benefited from the odd crouton and a dash of rouille. Deep-fried monkfish cheeks, presented as grown-up fish nuggets, were much enjoyed by our guest.
A main course of liver and bacon was accurately cooked, but somehow missed that final degree of satisfaction. Side dishes for the unadorned mains were good, but should have been for something approaching a fiver a time. Crumbles rarely work in restaurants, but this one did (and came with very good custard). Our guest, a food writer, concurred with our general observation that the food was good overall, if without any hints of the greatness you might hope for at the prices.
Coffee - despite the very good truffles that came with it - was definitely a bit of a let-down. It was an unremarkable brew, and - in an establishment of this grandeur - one should not have to ask for hot milk with it. Doubtless the all-foreign staff will eventually work these sorts of things out. In the same way they will eventually realise that only blokes trying to make some sort of Alpha-male point ever need English mustard in a quantity greater than a teaspoon.
Albemarle St, London, W1S 4BP
Last orders: 11 pm, Sun 10.30 pm