A notably ‘useful’ relaunch of this handily-located Art Deco dining room, offering good (and very straightforward) English food at prices which are surprisingly reasonable, considering.
It’s an ill wind’ Snow clouds lowering over the capital allowed us to bag a last-minute table at one of the sell-out of the pre-Christmas season – the recently relaunched ‘power’ dining room of the world-famous hotel.
Initial impressions are that this is a room with a real ’30s vibe. Second impression is that the banquette seating is far too low for the tables. How can anyone claiming to be a restaurateur (or a restaurant-designer) make guests of normal size feel like dwarfs? Corrective measures are apparently in hand but, in the meantime, cushions are available. Don’t be proud – take one.
Thereafter, the meal was plain sailing. It really should have been, too: the menu is decidedly, well, plain. The most complicated thing on it was quite possibly the omelette Arnold Bennett, one of the house’s historical specialities. We passed on that creamy delight, preferring to start our meal with oysters (decent size, nicely presented), and scallops (delivered period-style in-shell, and much approved).
Main courses of lamb pudding (rich, but a bit under-seasoned) and monkfish wrapped in Cumbrian ham (very tasty) continued a meal which almost invariably hit the spot; the same praise could be heaped on the bread, the vegetables (including chips) and the coffee too. Clearly, Stuart Gillies has brought the solid standards formerly noted at the Boxwood Café with him here.
We passed on puds: you’d need quite an appetite to get that far.
Service is one of the better examples of the modern London style. To the extent that there’s nothing particularly ‘period’ about it (not necessarily, of itself, a bad thing), however, it may contribute to a certain absence of ‘electricity’ in the room: the feeling that this is a Special Place is curiously elusive.
Currently, however, prices could not be described as ‘special’ either. A good dinner with moderate (and modest) wine, from the extensive list, came in at £60 a head. Given the location, this is arguably something of a bargain (and clearly a better buy than the River Restaurant at the same hotel).
We must, however, end on a slight note of reservation: we suspect we enjoyed our visit here all the more because it was impromptu. Had we booked weeks ahead, expectations could have mounted to the point that the decidedly straightforward menu might have seemed a teeny bit disappointing.
Forewarned, however, is forearmed – if you’re simply looking for a good meal in the heart of the West End, you’re unlikely to do much better than here.