This all-day restaurant is in the Rosewood Hotel in Holborn. The Belle Epoque building was originally the headquarters of Pearl Assurance, and until recently housed the restaurant Pearl. The head chef of the Holborn Dining Room is Calum Franklin, who was previously senior sous chef at Roast in Borough Market, and had earlier worked at restaurants including The Ivy and Indigo at One Aldwych. He was on vacation on the evening of my visit. The large dining room can seat 180 diners and features comfortable red leather banquettes and antique mirrors.
The wine list ranged in price from £26 to £360, and included labels such as Casa Lapostalle Carmenere Grand Selection 2013 at £34 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £11, Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc 2015 at £48 compared to its retail price of £17, and Vina Tondonia Reserva 2004 at £80 for a bottle whose current market value is £28. Mark-ups did not moderate higher up the list, as is usual, but if anything seemed to worsen: Chateau Puy Lacoste 1999 was £180 yet costs £65 in the high street, and Didier Dagenau Pur Sang 2010 was an excessive £260 for a wine that costs £76 in a shop. The lengthy menu is unashamedly British, with a selection of grilled dishes, bar snacks and sandwiches as well as a wide selection of starters and main courses. Starters were £8 to £17, main courses £16 to £40, side dishes £5 or £6, desserts £8. Bread is charged extra at a chunky £4 a head.
A starter of cauliflower soup came topped with pieces of Cashel Blue cheese and chestnuts, and a little onion brioche loaf. The bread was nice and the soup was respectable enough, but for me needed greater intensity (12/20). I think back to Steve Terry’s version at The Hardwick for an example of what can be accomplished with this seemingly simple dish. I much preferred a pate en croute of rabbit and bacon with pickles on the side. This had good flavour, the crust having pleasing texture, the chutneys providing some balancing sourness to the richness of the pate (14/20).
The meal went temporarily off the rails with the main course. A shrimp burger with jalapeno tartare sounded interesting, but had some issues. The jalapeno flavour was barely discernible, but the main issue was the filling. I am not sure what they used to bind the shrimps, but the overall effect had an odd taste, the prawns themselves cooked all right individually but the flavour when combined together was peculiar (11/20). Worse was a plate of haddock and chips and mushy peas, which suffered from distinctly soggy batter (10/20), though the chips were pleasant enough. However at £18 this kind of thing should not occur.
At this point, the pastry section of the kitchen retrieved the evening. Apple pie was made with Bramleys, which were suitably sharp, along with sultanas. The pastry was good, though there could have been more filling relative to pastry, and a bit more apple. Nonetheless this was a very good apple pie (14/20). Even better was lemon tart, which was superb. This had delicate pastry and a well-balanced filling with good texture – any Michelin-starred kitchen would be happy to serve this (16/20). Coffee was Musetti, a brand inexplicably popular in hotels.
Service was well meaning though not as slick as it might have been. Our desserts were confidently but erroneously presented the wrong way around, and one previous course had a “who ordered what?” moment. The bill came to £79 a head, with a bottle of the excellent Vina Tondonia 2004 Reserva. Overall this was a rather erratic meal. The starters were quite good, main courses poor and yet the desserts were seriously good. Commercially the place was doing well: on a cold Tuesday night in January the large room was very busy indeed. Prices are not exactly cheap, so although the menu is appealing and the pastry section clearly has some talent, the overall execution needs to be more consistent.
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