This restaurant has now closed, and the notes below are of historical interest only.
The restaurant is called 1880, after the year in which the building (the Bentley Hotel) was built. The basement room was elegantly decorated, with cream walls with yellow moiré decorative fabric panels. There were several pillars finished with black marble along the walls and a large gilt mirror on one wall. The carpet was comfortingly thick, light beige with a red rose pattern. The ceiling was high and painted white, with three large chandeliers providing the dominant light in the room, supplemented by side lamps and also directed ceiling spots. Chairs were high-backed with armrests, traditional and comfortable, upholstered in midnight blue. Opposite the dining room was a piano bar with a pianist playing various easy listening classics; fortunately he did not sing.
Each table had a white linen tablecloth and napkins. A single red rose was placed on each table in a silver holder, but no condiments were displayed. The restaurant had just ourselves and two other diners this evening. Apparently business is slow, yet we still had to leave credit card details when booking.
Amuse-bouche was a samosa of duck confit, served on top of a couple of small spears of tender asparagus, which was in season. The samosa had light texture and excellent duck taste (16/20). Breads arrived in an impressive tray, whole breads that were then cut at the table. There was baguette, rosemary foccacia, bacon and cheese, olive, mushroom and garlic brioche and sunflower seed loaf. The breads were warm when served and were very good. The bacon and cheese bread was stunning, with lovely light texture, intense flavour and perfect seasoning (19/20). Others were around the still very good (16/20), except the olive bread (13/20), which was too hard. The wine list stretched over 17 pages, and spanned the world, organised by country. Prices are high, while the Bonny Doon Cigare Volant at £68 was my pick of the list. Rioja Alta 904 1995 was a steep £78, and even Catena Malbec from Argentina 2002 was £42. There was little under £40. There were no dessert wines by the glass officially, though one was rustled up by the very pleasant Turkish maitre d’, whose name is Volkan Acil.
Seared bluefin tuna was served as three small discs, next to each of which were a pair of broad beans. Served with this was a little salad of mesclun leaves, capers and tomato topped with a soft quail’s egg. The tuna was dipped in salt and dill and was very pleasant, though not of the very highest quality, the salad was nice and the presentation pretty (16/20). Pumpkin soup had creamy texture and tasted properly of pumpkin; it had a few very tender prawns in the soup, as well as a few carrots in the middle of the dish. Alongside were ginger flavoured “batons” (really just thin tuiles) and a few thin tuiles of parmesan and olive (16/20).
Fillet of beef was tender and served on an excellent bed of crisp potato Anna, itself on top of a layer of tender spinach. This all rested in a pool of reduced cooking juices that would have benefited from further reduction (16/20). A fillet of wild salmon was nicely cooked but did not taste wild. This was served with a sauce of sultanas and white wine that had reasonable texture and balanced flavour, with thin slices of caramelised cauliflower and small pieces of broccoli surrounding the salmon (16/20).
The cheese board was French and sadly appeared rather past its best, which was confirmed when tasting. The supplier was “First Choice Cheeses”. Munster was not ripe, while Comte and Beaufort both had a soapy texture and little taste. Forme d’Ambert was also past its best. The cheeses were served with grapes and a few home-made cheese biscuits (12/20).
A pre-dessert was of peach melba, which had a nice quality peach but vanilla ice cream that lacked vanilla taste, along with a little raspberry sauce and sliced, good quality fresh raspberries (14/20). My wife had a dish with five little pieces of caramelised banana displayed in a row, alongside good coconut ice cream served in a little chocolate tuile bowl which mimicked the shape of a coconut shell. This continued the theme of good presentation tonight. The centre of the ice cream contained Malibu. Five dots of chocolate sauce were placed alongside the line of banana pieces (15/20). A pineapple ice cream had smooth texture and reasonable taste, accompanied by a mango “carpaccio” i.e. mousse, sandwiched by sesame seed tuiles, separated by a pineapple crisp. The mango mousse lacked any depth of mango flavour, and I was unconvinced with the pairing of a sesame seed tuile, which sat oddly in a sweet dish (14/20). Both filter coffee and cappuccino were good (16/20). This was served with petit fours: a sad rum baba that was heavy, dry and lacking in rum, a good mini chocolate tart, a little chocolate bar and a choux bun with pistachio filling (13/20 for the petit fours overall, the rum baba being barely 11/20).
The starters and main courses were capably produced, with desserts lagging a little below this standard. The menu was well balanced and appealing, and pretty presentation was in evidence throughout the meal. The cheese board was poor, but the new manager seems intent on switching to a better supplier. The breads were a real highlight. The question would be the value for money factor, as this is by no means cheap, with hefty wine mark-ups. The combination of high price, basement setting and being in an obscure hotel have clearly caused the place to struggle. The chef in charge tonight was someone called Sharon, a sous chef of Andrew Turner, who was not around this evening. I had the impression that they are on the lookout for a new head chef.