Capability is the main restaurant of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Syon Park, which opened just a fortnight ago. It is named after Capability Brown, the famous 18th Century garden designer, who laid out the gardens at Syon Park amongst his 170 country house gardens. Although a modern hotel, there are nods to the past here, as with the little display case in the lobby with a few butterflies fluttering amongst the foliage (there used to be a butterfly house on this site). The dining room has modern décor, carpeted and with a view over a terrace, with classical music playing in the background. The head chef is Lee Streeton, previously executive chef at Browns Hotel, who had previous stints at the Ivy and Caprice. Despite the restaurant only being open for two weeks, he did not grace us with his presence this evening.
The wine list stretches to 170 separate wines, kept in a temperature-controlled room at the side of the dining room. The list is presided over by a French gentleman called Romain, who was knowledgeable and helpful, and had previously worked at the Hermitage in Monaco, amongst other places. The list had quite balanced global coverage but high prices, with wines such as Gonon St Veran 2009 at £57 for a wine that retails at £13, Latour Giraud Mersault Poruzots 2007 at £111 compared to a shop price of £34, with Antinori Tignanello 2007 at a hefty £191 for a wine that costs £53 in the shops. At the upper end of the list Rene Engle Clos de Veugot 2004 was £237 for a wine that you can buy in the shops for £76, up to wines like Leflaive Batard Montrachet 2007 at £557 for a wine that costs £208. We drank, at the sommelier’s suggestion, the simple but pleasant Hawk Crest Chardonnay 2007 (84 points in Wine Spectator), which was priced at an excessive £48 for a wine that costs only about £8 retail. Bread was from Millers Bakery in Wimbledon, just white slices served warm, and decent enough (13/20).
Tart of smoked haddock, poached quail egg with mustard (£10.75) had decent pastry, properly cooked eggs and haddock whose flavour came through well enough (13/20). Sea bass (£10.25) from Cornwall was marinated with dill and fennel, and seemed to be of good quality, though there was not much bass relative to the fennel, and the hint of chilli to enliven the dish would have been better if it had been more evident (13/20).
Monkfish braised in red wine was originally offered with bone marrow, but the kitchen substituted scallops at my wife’s request (£22.75). The fish had good flavour, cooked properly, and the red wine sauce, which I think had a meat stock base, had reasonable intensity; the scallops were also fine (14/20). My venison was served with pan haggerty (potatoes, onions and cheese) and was supposedly medium rare but arrived on the well done side of medium. This was a shame as the venison was clearly of good quality, but the slightly dried out meat would have needed more sauce at the best of times (12/20). Cauliflower was woefully undercooked (barely 11/20) but chips, made from Maris Piper potatoes, although double cooked were quite crisp (15/20).
For dessert, “Chester Pie” i.e. lemon meringue pie, was very good, the pastry well-made and the lemon meringue nicely balanced (15/20). Also capable was an Amedia chocolate cake, as was a rich sticky toffee pudding (14/20). Coffee from Musetti was very good, but at £5 I did not appreciated being charged another £5 for a top up, given that no second set of petit fours (a couple of pretty ordinary chocolates) appeared.
The bill was £99 each with one of the cheapest wines on the list, which is simply far too costly for cooking of the quality we encountered, with two clear technical errors. I found this a frustrating meal, as there has clearly been some effort made to source good ingredients, but that does not help if you then cook them incorrectly. For less money than this we could have eaten at Michelin-starred La Trompette at the end of our road, and had dramatically better wine. No wonder hotel dining rooms get a bad name.