The boutique St Paul’s Hotel is in what was for many years part of the venerable St Paul’s School, which was founded in 1509. The lovely red brick gothic building in Hammersmith Road dates from 1884 and had the same architect, Alfred Waterhouse, who designed the Natural History Museum. The building was where Eisenhower, Montgomery and Winston Churchill met to plan the D Day landings. It is located between Hammersmith and Olympia.
Its restaurant Melody is named after a 1971 movie of that name written by Alan Parker and filmed partly in the building. It is at least a better name for a restaurant than the film’s original title when it was released: S.W.A.L.K. (Sealed With A Loving Kiss).
Melody opened in July 2014. The new head chef, in place since May 2015, is Francesco Eccher who was previously head chef of The Gore Hotel in Kensington, and before that was head Chef at the Pelham Hotel in South Kensington for two years. Starters were priced from £7.50 to £14, main courses £16 to £29, vegetables side dishes at an ambitious £5, and desserts mostly £7.50.
The wine list was quite short at just 32 labels, ranging from £19.50 to £190 with a median price of £30 and an average mark-up of 2.9 times retail. Example bottles were Macon Crepillionne Fichet 2013 at £34 for a wine that you can find in the high street for £11, Viramiere Grand Cru 2011 at £48 compared to a retail price of £19, and Pol Roger Winston Churchill 2002 at a very fair £175 for a label that will set you back £155 in a shop. Bread was bought in from an obscure bakery but the rolls that we tried were pleasant enough (13/20).
A trio of scallops were cooked properly, yet utterly lacked flavour. They were served with some pleasant peas and an onion broth (11/20). Better was crab lasagne with pleasant pasta resting in a pool of herb beurre blanc, though the kitchen failed to spot several pieces of shell in the crab, which was a tad careless (12/20).
My main course was tagliatelle notionally with asparagus and prawns. In reality the asparagus was missing in action and there was a large, solitary and mushy prawn. The pasta actually had decent texture, but was utterly devoid of detectable seasoning (11/20). Yellowfin tuna steaks were grilled and served with mouli remoulade, red pepper jam and parsley pesto. The tuna was cooked rare and had decent flavour, and the slightly sweet red pepper jam was quite nice. It seems odd to criticise an overly generous portion size, but no normal person could have finished the two vast tuna steaks (12/20). On the side, roast potatoes were sadly soggy (10/20).
A dessert of mascarpone and mango cheesecake was made in the kitchen (the ice creams were mostly not) but although the cheesecake had reasonable texture the mango flavour was undetectable and the coconut sorbet was vaguely sweet but completely lacking in coconut flavour. A bloodhound would have struggled to work out what the flavours were supposed to be (10/20). Coffee was from a brand called Cafe Italia, and was quite nice.
The bill came to £66 a head, with a bottle of champagne to share. Service, led by a manager who used to work at Bentleys hotel near Gloucester Road, was fine. I found this a rather frustrating meal. The building is lovely and the technical side of the cooking was generally competent: nothing was burnt, nothing was undercooked, though the seasoning was subtle to the point of invisibility. Yet the ingredients used were of low quality, from the bland scallops to the tasteless mango. With main courses at up to £29 this is unacceptable. Melody has the potential to be an interesting restaurant if the cooking was on song, but sadly was off key tonight.
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