The Biltmore Hotel is the upmarket brand within the Hilton hotel group, and in September 2019 it opened in Grosvenor Square on the site of what was the Millennium Hotel. Its flagship restaurant is the oddly named “The Betterment”, part of Jason Atherton’s growing empire of restaurants. Its head chef is Paul Walsh, formerly head chef of City Social for five years. The dining room is on the ground floor of the hotel and is smartly decorated, with a garden with additional seating available in good weather. The menu was quite lengthy with a range of modern British dishes.
The wine list had 664 full bottles ranging in price from £35 to £19,000, with a high median price of £120 that reflects its Mayfair location. Sample references were Millton Viognier Riverpoint Vineyard 2015 at £55 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £17, Domaine Thibault Liger-Belair Moulin-à-Vent Vieilles Vignes 2017 at £78 compared to its retail price of £22, and Cascina Roccalini Barbaresco Roccalini 2015 at £95 for a wine that will set you back £31 in the high street. For those with the means there was the very rare Clos Rougeard Breze 2013 at £500 compared to its retail price of £179, and Biondi-Santi Brunello di Montalcino, Riserva 1997 at £910 for a wine whose current market value is £467. There were some absurdities in the pricing e.g. Mas de Daumas Gassac red at 2016 is a good wine retailing at £36, but was listed here for £220 (plus service of course), a mere 6.9 times its retail price. It was not an isolated case: Egon Müller Riesling Scharzhof 2016 is a well-made wine costing £41 in a shop, but was listed here at £220 (plus service). With the Coravin system being used, they are able to offer 70 wines by the glass, but no corkage option is available at any price. Even by the demanding standards of Mayfair, this is a pretty aggressively priced wine list.
Sourdough bread was made in the kitchen and had very good texture, served warm (15/20). An appetiser of king crab with yuzu and lime was garnished with salad leaves and served in a crab leg shell. The crab meat was tender and the acidity of the citrus was nicely judged (14/20). A starter of a mix of white and brown crab meat with lemon butter was served in a crab shell, alongside toasted brioche. This was a simple but enjoyable dish (13/20). An altogether more ambitious starter was a pan-fried Orkney scallop with strips of braised cep mushrooms in aged Parmesan foam. The scallop was high quality and lightly cooked, the mushrooms working well with it, and the foam was lovely, its hint of richness balancing the natural sweetness of the scallop (16/20).
John Dory was accurately cooked and served with Coco de Paimpol beans from France and a Bordelaise sauce. The latter is a classic of French cuisine, a red wine sauce with bone marrow, butter and shallots added to a reduced demi-glace sauce. The sauce was excellent and showed that someone in the kitchen has a good training in classical French technique (15/20). Venison came with red cabbage and trompette mushrooms with a little quince. The meat had lovely deep flavour and the cabbage was an excellent earthy accompaniment, the quince’s sharpness cutting through the richness of the sauce of the cooking juices (16/20). On the side was lightly cooked broccoli, confit Basque peppers, chips cooked in beef dripping which were enjoyable but could have been crisper, as well as confit Linzer potatoes with white onion. There was also an onion in a flower shape with chive emulsion, which was pretty and resembled an onion bhajia in flavour, at least to me (14/20 average score for the sides).
A chocolate tart was very well made, using Valrhona chocolate and having velvety texture, topped with chocolate leaves and accompanied by excellent vanilla ice cream (15/20). This was better than pineapple and coconut mousse covered in slices of compressed pineapple and laced with lime. The design of the dish was good, being a refreshing combination, but the slices of pineapple had a texture that didn’t quite work for me and tasted a little bland, as if the process of compressing had removed some of the fruit flavour. Nonetheless, the mousse was fine and the lime added just the right level of freshness (13/20).
Coffee was Lavazzo, an organic premium blend that was only 60% arabica. It was drinkable but there are so many better specialty coffees these days than this sort of industrial coffee. I am sure that Jason Atherton being a Lavazzo brand ambassador is a mere coincidence to the choice of coffee here. Service was genuinely good, the staff being knowledgeable, patient and attentive. The bill came to £120 per person, which is probably about the likely cost per person if you managed to find a modestly priced wine on this list and share that. The Betterment is in a Mayfair hotel and so was never going to be a cheap night out, but the food was actually better than I was anticipating. The scallop and venison dishes in particular were classy, and there were no dud dishes throughout the meal. You definitely need to be well-heeled to dine here, but at least you will eat well.