Harden's survey result
“Still the best place to take friends from abroad…”, “Still the best place for a business power breakfast…”, “Still the absolute best buzz in London!” – Corbin & King’s Grand Café near The Ritz is still at the centre of metropolitan life: a “highly tuned, effective and bustling brasserie” where the “fabulous room” means it “always feels like a glamorous treat”; and where the “interesting crowd” typically includes a few famous faces. Its “comprehensive menu” of comfort food (with some Mittel-european specials) is “not out-of-this-world” and has never aimed to be, but is generally “well executed and presented”. That said, laurel-resting is an ever-present danger here, and there were one or two more “underwhelming” meals reported this year. Likewise, while on most accounts “everything is so slick”, there have also been a few more reports recently of “mixed” and/or “brusque” service. Top Tip: “a good traditional afternoon tea, which (unlike so many places nowadays) doesn’t cost the earth”.
“Always bustling” and “a real occasion” – Corbin & King’s “large, continental and sophisticated” Grand Café near The Ritz is “a marvellous, metropolitan meeting point” not least for the capital’s movers ’n’ shakers (it’s “great for subtle star-spotting!”) for whom the “courteous and very professional service” helps make it the town’s No. 1 choice for business. The “brasserie comfort food is unambitious but well done”, and it’s as “a go-to venue for breakfast” (it’s “THE place in London”) that it particularly shines. Another Top Tip – “afternoon tea to die for”.
From “the perfect power breakfast” (“like a Who’s Who of the FTSE100!”) to “celeb-spotting” over lunch or dinner, Corbin & King’s “cosmopolitan and Continental feeling” Grand Café by The Ritz is “always full of fizz”, even if the “bistro-style” Mittel-European fare has always been decidedly “formulaic”. A few accuse it of laurel-resting though? – in particular service (typically “very professional”) was patchier this year. Top Tip – “one of the few grand afternoon teas in central London that isn’t a total rip-off”.
“It should be a national monument!” – Corbin & King’s “tremendously atmospheric” (“mildly cacophonous”) European Grand Café by the Ritz has become a “perennial” linchpin of “glamorous” London life (“there’s always at least one A-list celeb eating at a nearby table!”). It’s the “fun and the buzz” that set it apart, however – the large Mittel-European menu is “very adaptable” but decidedly “not exciting” (even if “it does the best breakfast in town, bar none!”)
The Wolseley Restaurant Diner Reviews
"Always a good bet for a tasty lunch or terrific afternoon tea."
"Fairly standard brasserie fare, but the elegance of the restaurant and the buzz (the place was packed) made lunch a memorable experience."
"Buzzing as ever so good for a potentially more boring client dinner, and the overseas clients loved it. Service moves from first class to absent-minded and the food, well one never came for the food really - good but not amazing."
"What a disappointment, highly recommended for breakfast. Full English at £18.75 ,no better than a £5 full English anywhere else . A table for 4 people only big enough really for 2 people. I think the motto must be pack them in as best we can. A 121/2 per cent service charge. Sorry massive disappointment living on a name."
"I have been there in the evening, and the experiences were all great. However, my first visit for breakfast was very disappointing. The food was great, especially eggs, but the service was terrible. The staff was hopeless and had no patience."
"A bit over-rated these days"
"Food better than I was expecting. My Hungarian wife loved it -'it how I want grand Budapest restaurants to be - but aren't' Great for people watching and feeling part of London life"
The Wolseley W1
Starting with Le Caprice in 1981, Jeremy King and Christopher Corbin built up one of London's most impressive restaurant empires of recent times. By the time they finally exited in 2002 - several million pounds richer - the group included no fewer than three of the five most popular restaurants in town (The Ivy, Le Caprice and J Sheekey).
How to follow such an act? The answer turned out to The Wolseley. Occupying a vast Edwardian building near the Ritz - built as a showroom for Wolseley Motors, but for most of the last century a grand Barclay's Bank - the place was certainly a 'wow' when, two years ago, it opened for business. London's dining public, after all, is unaccustomed to grandeur. Was this our answer to New York's Four Seasons, or Paris's Train Bleu? The newcomer certainly gave the initial impression that it might be a fit emblem for a city with pretensions to being the restaurant capital of the world. And if the food and service were a bit up-and-down - well, hey, it was early days.
It is no longer early days. True, the place is still hailed in some circles as something of a glamour destination, but standards of food and service over the past two years - as recorded by our surveys - have never risen much above good-to-middling. More worryingly, they have seemed, if anything, to be on a downwards path. If our recent meal is anything to go by, this slide continues.
Our first impression was in fact a non-impression. No Corbin or King. In most restaurants, you neither notice nor care if the gaffers are absent. Here you do, as it's part of the 'package'. It wouldn't really have mattered so much if the service had been any good, but, while pleasant, staff were often absent (or, if present, oblivious to customer needs). On the food front too, something was not quite there, in one case literally - partridge with bacon, the special of the day, was (inexplicably) served as partridge without bacon. It made a good emblem for a meal that rarely rose above mundane. Despite the architectural richness, that ambience similarly lacked pizzazz.
Including a couple of (very good) martinis, and a (rather disappointing) bottle of Dao (£45), the bill for two mounted to no less than £150 (including tip). So it was a good thing we knew we had enjoyed what is still sometimes tipped as one of London's great restaurant experiences. Otherwise, we might just have felt rather ripped off.
160 Piccadilly, London, W1J 9EB
|Number of Diners:|
|Monday||7 am-3 pm, 5:30 pm-12 am|
|Tuesday||7 am-3 pm, 5:30 pm-12 am|
|Wednesday||7 am-3 pm, 5:30 pm-12 am|
|Thursday||7 am-3 pm, 5:30 pm-12 am|
|Friday||7 am-3 pm, 5:30 pm-12 am|
|Saturday||8 am-3:30 pm, 5:30 pm-12 am|
|Sunday||8 am-3:30 pm, 5:30 pm-11 pm|