Kit Kemp – who, with her husband Tim, owns Firmdale Hotels – has created some of London’s best contemporary hotel interiors. They may sometimes seem a touch self-indulgent, but they are often witty: beautiful even. (Her decoration of a ballroom-style chamber at the new Haymarket Hotel – now one of the most elegant rooms in the heart of the West End – is a case in point.)
History, however, suggests that good hoteliers do not necessarily make good restaurateurs. Being good at designing hotels is certainly no guarantee you’ll be any good at creating their dining rooms. Mrs Kemp’s gift for interior design, for example, seems to desert her in restaurant spaces: there’s something about her stagey style which can create an atmosphere that’s plain dead. That’s what’s happened here. This is admittedly an intrinsically difficult space – long and low, its Georgian-style windows offer close-up views of the Haymarket traffic – but her all-pervasively bold, dark design achieves all the pizzazz of a provincial wine bar.
The Italian food on our visit, however, was consistently enjoyable, and certainly better than the dreary Firmdale norm. But that’s not to say it was necessarily good enough for the group’s typically elevated prices. With bills boosted by wines tending uncomfortably towards the tenner-a-time mark – yes, that is by the glass – even a pasta-based meal could easily set you back £40/head. If you include some serious protein, spending twice that would take no real effort. Problem is, for that sort of dosh, why on earth would you choose to come here?