Below are notes from my first meal here in September 2009, soon after it opened.
Breads are made from scratch, but were mixed: good breadsticks and excellent olive rolls, but ordinary bacon rolls and rather dry foccacia (15/20 overall, but 17/20 for the olive rolls). The 44 page wine list has an Italian focus, but also has plenty to offer from elsewhere. Starting at £25, the list had choices such as Heggies Chardonnay at £37 for a wine that will set you back around a tenner in the shops, Jermann Pignacolusse 2002 for £68 compared to a retail price of around £22 and the excellent Antinori Tignanello 2005 at £128 for a wine that costs about £48 to purchase retail. At the luxury end of the list Didier Dagenau Silex 2004 was listed at £150 for a wine that’s costs about £77 to buy in the shops, while Opus One 1996 was a hefty £495 for a wine that you can buy for around £125.
Nibbles consisted of well-made aubergine terrine, a few salad leaves that appeared (oddly) to have no dressing and a spoon containing artichoke puree, a little fried veal and kumquat to give some balancing acidity (15/20). A starter of artichoke tortellini with tomatoes, mint oil and Parmesan was well made, the pasta having soft texture, the artichoke flavour coming through well (16/20). My starter was carbonarra fagotelli, egg pasta parcels filled with cream of egg yolk, Parmesan and parsley, with a sauce of Parmesan, pepper, egg yolk, bacon and finely diced courgettes. This was a very skilful dish, the pasta having superb texture, the herb elements offsetting the richness of the dish (18/20).
Fillet of turbot was topped with an olive crust, accompanied by caponata (a Sicilian stew of aubergine, capers and pine nuts). The fish has good flavour and was nicely timed, but I think the dish was finished under a salamander, which had the effect of drying out the olive crust too much (15/20). Better was high quality fillet of beef cooked medium rare (sous vide) and served with tender spinach, girolles, pommes puree and slivers of both salsify and bacon crisps giving a welcome texture contrast, offered with a red wine and balsamic sauce, the elements combining well (easily 16/20).
Desserts were prettily presented. Crunchy chocolate dome with salted pine nut ice cream and mint foam was served with almond caramel and drops of passion fruit coulis. The ice cream was very effective, bringing just the right amount of saltiness to contrast with the rich chocolate, while the mint flavour was carefully controlled (16/20). Even better was a cheesecake with lemon ice cream, the base just right, the filling rich but having the lemon to balance that, and augmented by a little rhubarb providing a tart contrast, and a chocolate chip containing a rhubarb marmalade. Perhaps this last element was superfluous, but the cheesecake itself was superb, and the rhubarb was carefully prepared so as to be acidic, but not too acidic (17/20). Coffee was strong and dark, and accompanied by high class petit fours, including a peppermint, rich chocolate ganache and superb almond biscuits (17/20).
Service was superb throughout the evening. There was no shortage of waiting staff, they were effectively marshalled, and topping up of both bread and wine was pretty much flawless. The bill came to £107 each (with 12.5% service included yet the credit card slip left open) with a medium priced wine, so this is hardly cheap. Yet there is real skill on display here, with good presentation, high grade ingredients and significant technical skill. This is the best restaurant that the Lanesborough hotel has yet hosted, and deserves considerable success, being much more than just another hotel posh dining room experience.