Offering a rare combination of charm and grandeur, this impressively updated City dining room makes a good all-purpose destination; food and service maintain high standards, and prices are surprisingly reasonable.
Spooky. As we walk into this grand City dining room, once known as Aurora, we can’t help noticing that there are quite a lot of people having lunch. Perhaps things aren’t as bad as everyone says. Or perhaps it’s just that – even at Ã la carte prices – this place really offers a very good all-round package.
For there is remarkably little not to like about one of London’s grandest dining rooms. The graciously domed Victorian chamber certainly has a much better ‘feel’ than when we last visited in the Conran days. (If Conran is such a great designer, we always wondered, why did guests get an ugly eyeful of what was going on in the kitchen every time the swing door opened?)
Staff – seemingly all French – bring an easy charm and efficiency to their work which sometimes eludes those born on this side of the Channel.
It was the cooking, though, which most surprised us. Slate plates, as we’ve noted in another recent City review, run the risk of raising undue expectations of artistry, but the high level of presentation here was well matched by the realisation.
A ham hock terrine with pickled vegetables, geometrically presented on a rectangular ‘plate’, for example, made a striking start. There is perhaps an element of repetition in presentation, but the quality of main dishes such as fillets of red mullet, and puddings such as a ‘slow cooked’ apple crumble was impressively high throughout. And those all-important details such as bread, coffee and macarons (fabrication maison) were consistently good too.
All in all, one of those rare places which – at least on the basis of our visit – it is pretty much impossible to fault.