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Alyn Williams at the Westbury

The Westbury Hotel, 37 Conduit Street, London, England, W1S 2YF, United Kingdom

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This restaurant has been running since 2011, and was awarded a Michelin star in 2013. Alyn Williams was formerly head chef of Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley before moving here. The dining room is windowless but is smartly decorated, with well-spaced, good sized tables. We took advantage of the five-course lunch option today, priced at £47. You could also have three courses at lunch for £35, as well as three courses a la carte at £70 or the full tasting menu at £90 per person, with a vegetarian version at the same price. Head chef Alyn Williams was not working at this particular service. The food prices are quite moderate for a starred restaurant in central London, but then you get to look at the wines….

The wine list was quite extensive but the pricing was outrageous, even by the stratospheric standards of Mayfair. Often with an expensive wine list you can find relief by delving into the obscure regions, but don’t bother here. Chateau Bela 2011 from Slovakia, a collaboration of Egon Muller and Mirsolav Petrech, was listed at £180 (plus service), a little matter of nearly 11 times its retail price of £19 once you factor in the service charge.  Matosevic Alba Malvazija Istarska 2017 from Croatia was £59 plus service compared to its shop price of £13. Donnhoff Riesling 2013 was a lovely wine to drink, but was listed at £80 compared to its retail price of £18. Guenoc Sauvignon Blanc 2013 from California was £140 plus service for a wine that costs just £12 in a shop. If you think the really prestige wines might be less marked up then, as The Dread Pirate Roberts said in the wonderful movie ‘The Princess Bride’: “Get used to disappointment”. Chateau Latour 1983 was £2,840 plus service for a bottle whose current market value is £462.  I could go on. This is the sort of wine list to drive anyone to drink tap water. If you are determined to drink alcohol then there is some relief in parts of the champagne list, with Ruinart Blanc de Blanc NV at £128 plus service for a bottle that costs £66 in a shop. Otherwise just pray that you are dining with a rich friend with a large expense account. Sadly I wasn’t. Just in case you are contemplating corkage, it is £75 a bottle, with a maximum of three bottles per table.

There were a couple of nibbles. Cottage cheese tartlet had nice pastry but a rather uninspiring topping (13/20), but foie gras inside Tunisian brik pastry cylinders was lovely, with rich liver flavour and crisp pastry cases (easily 16/20). Also good was sourdough bread with nigella seeds, which had excellent texture and was made in the kitchen rather than being bought in (16/20). 

My starter had lobster claws with pickled shiitake mushrooms on a bed of mushroom chawanmushi, which is a savoury egg custard dish that is quite common in Japan. This is usually served hot in Japan, though in the sweltering Honshu summer it may be served chilled. On the side was lobster claw served on a crisp base. The lobster meat was tender enough but the chawanmushi, served fridge-cold, didn’t work for me, being just a grey and rather favourless mush (13/20 is kind).  

Better was gurnard with collard greens and mussels with a yellow lentil curry and cashews. The fish was nicely cooked and the mild spice of the curry worked well with the fish and the mussels (15/20). The main course was a Norfolk chicken breast with wild garlic and morels, with a large carrot and, on the side, pomme mousseline with chicken leg. This worked well, the chicken having reasonable flavour and the carrot and potatoes complementing it well (15/20).

Pre-dessert was yoghurt sorbet with white chocolate crumb and blood orange ham, jelly and segments. The acidity of the orange nicely cut through the yoghurt and white chocolate (15/20). The main dessert consisted of gariguette strawberries with strawberry jam, crème Chantilly, lemon curd foam and caramel ice cream along with strawberry jelly and strawberry segments pressed in their own juices, with a strawberry and camomile infusion. This was enjoyable and refreshing, the strawberries having good flavour (15/20).  A salted caramel tart, which arrived as an extra dish for my friend who was celebrating his retirement, was impressive, the pastry delicate and the caramel nicely judged (16/20). Coffee was from Drury and was good quality. To go with this were some Danish tea cakes, yuzu jellies and tarts of chocolate fondant.

Service was excellent through the meal, the staff being friendly and attentive. The bill came to £182 per person, but this was mostly wine. If you came in the evening and ate a la carte and shared a modest bottle of wine then a typical cost per head might be around £105, and it would be easy to spend more than this. Although overall this was an enjoyable enough experience, it was a less consistent meal than my previous ones here, and the price point means that such inconsistency is hard to accept given the wide range of alternative dining nearby. The wine list pricing is simply inexcusable, and in a crowded Mayfair field has some of the most egregious mark-ups I have seen.

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Further reviews: 02nd May 2013 | 28th Apr 2012

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  • BRYAN BURRELL

    That would be the most outstanding wine markup in history!