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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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The Westbury hotel is centrally located on Bond Street; it was subject to a major refurbishment in 2011, and the hotel recruited chef Alyn Williams to run its flagship restaurant. Alyn was head chef of Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley prior to branching out on his own here. The dining room is attractively laid out, with hints of art deco; the room is carpeted so noise levels are reasonable, and tables are well spaced. The restaurant can seat around 60 guests at capacity, and ten chefs cook for them in the large kitchen. The notes below are from a meal in December 2011, but I also had a very good meal of a similar standard in April 2012.

A tasting menu was available at £55, or three courses à la carte at £45. A nice feature was that there was a full vegetarian tasting menu and a complete vegetarian à la carte menu too. The wine list had around 400 wines, ranging in price from £19.50 to £3,000, with an average price per bottle of £75 and a mark-up level average of 3.3 times the retail price i.e. hardly a bargain but less than some places in Mayfair. Examples were Dandelion Vineyards Riesling 2010 at £40 for a wine that you can find in the shops for £9, the lovely Ata Rangi Pinot Noir 2008 at £98 for a wine that retails at £30, and Didier Dagenau Silex 2008 at £235 for a wine that will set you back £78 to buy in a shop. Mark-ups on the grander wines of the list vary significantly. I can recommend the Sonoma Coast La Crema Chardonnay 2008 at £45 for a wine that costs £15, an excellent suggestion of the helpful sommelier.

A variety of enjoyable nibbles appeared as we were browsing the menu: crisp arancini (rice balls) were lovely, very light gougeres made with Fourme d’Ambert had plenty of cheese flavour and unusually good texture. There was also deep fried sea bass belly and little pieces of langoustine with tom yum jelly served on little prawn crackers (17/20 nibbles). Bread was made from scratch and comprised a dense potato bread with a good crust, and granary rolls, and salt and pepper lavash (Iranian flatbread) that had rather a lot of pepper and was a little oily; it was served with a choice of regular butter and very good caraway seed butter; I applaud the kitchen for making its own bread, but I think some further refinement is needed in this department (15/20). As a group of four we were able to try a range of dishes from the various menus on offer.

I really enjoyed a pair of carefully cooked pan-fried langoustines, served with morcilla (blood sausage), crab apple, sorrel and chestnuts. This was a very nicely balanced dish, the sweetness of the langoustines, the earthiness of the chestnuts, the richness of the morcilla balanced by the acidity of the apple: classy cooking (17/20). Cauliflower pannacotta had deep cauliflower flavour and was topped with crunchy acorn and served with delicate cream cheese wafers made from deep-fried potato (16/20). Veal sweetbreads had excellent texture, served with artichokes, celery puree and a little sherry dressing (16/20).

Smoked egg was served with truffle soldiers, celeriac puree and discs of celeriac, with apple slices providing some acidity. The egg was smoked for a little too long, the smoky flavour rather dominant, but the dish had good balance (16/20). A salad of baby leaves and micro-leaves had barely discernible shallot dressing, but tiny crunchy pieces of toasted hazelnut (15/20). Sweet onion ravioli with sorrel were lovely, with intense onion flavour and pasta with excellent texture; the accompanying laverbread did not add much for me (16/20).

Cotswold white chicken was precisely timed, served with hen of the wood mushrooms, a smoked egg and charred leek – the chicken itself did not have particularly dazzling flavour but that is a limitation of the chicken you can find in the UK rather than any issue with the cooking (16/20). Gnocchi was a rare technical glitch this evening, being too heavy in texture, accompanied with a watercress puree and watercress leaves that lacked much flavour, but the dish was helped by tiny slivers of toasted walnuts, adding a textural contrast (14/20).

Crème Catalan was well-made if a little bland, served with pear granita which had good texture but lacked intensity; it was dusted with pine sugar, but this was so subtle it was hard to detect (15/20). Tiramisu was competent rather than exciting, the coffee flavour not particularly intense, arriving as a slice of coffee flavoured sponge with cream. On the side was half a small nutella brioche, which worked well, the nutella rolled into the dough and having good hazelnut and chocolate flavour. Chocolates were made from scratch in the kitchen, including a coffee and Pedro Ximinez truffle and also a Christmas pudding truffle, which were pleasant. Coffee was of good quality.

Service was very good if verging on over-fussy: I didn’t need my breadcrumbs swept up between every course, messy eater though I am. The bill came to £155 a head but that was with quite a bit of wine. If you drank a modest wine then you could comfortably eat here for £75 a head, which is fair value for cooking of this quality. Overall this was a most enjoyable meal; there are still little things to improve, but even in its early days this is clearly a very good restaurant indeed.

 

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Further reviews: 29th Mar 2019 | 02nd May 2013

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