You get to the dining room via a large bar area, where a simpler menu is offered. The dining room has a high ceiling, large windows and a few pieces of original art on the walls. The menu’s prices reflect the location: starters are £14.50 - £19.50, mains £26 - £34.50, desserts are £9.50. A vegetable risotto weighs in at an absurd £26. The 15 page wine list has carefully chosen growers, covers both new and old worlds quite well. Mark-ups are not excessive by central London standards, and there are at least a few decent choices in the sub £35 range. Jermann Pinot Grigio is £50 for a wine that you can buy for around £14 in the shops, Trimbach Riesling 2006 is £36 for a wine that retails at about a tenner, while Suduiraut 2006 dessert wine is priced at £65 for a half bottle compared to shop price of around £23. Dessert wine is offered by the “glass”, but this turns out to be not a standard 125 ml measure but a feeble 50 ml shot glass (not declared in the menu); it will not surprise you that the prices for this “glass” are disproportionately high relative to a half bottle.
An amuse bouche of a cup of puy lentil soup with bacon was tasty, well seasoned and having good flavour, the bacon adding a smoky hint to the lentil taste (16/20). A starter of feuillete of smoked Finnan haddock with quail eggs was prettily presented, the eggs soft boiled and served in a little bun, the haddock tasty and resting in a well-made mustard sauce. This dish seemed particularly well made, the flavours very well balanced (17/20). Tournedos of Angus beef was tender, carefully cooked and served with excellent shallot confit, a rich oxtail sauce, wild mushrooms and a little horseradish to add bite (16/20). A pre-dessert of a granita of red berries was rather lazily made, the crystals not stirred sufficiently so they were rather large, the berry flavour being somewhat drowned out (13/20).
Pear and fig soufflé was technically correct, though the fig flavour rather overwhelmed the pear; this was served with a rich chocolate sauce and excellent vanilla ice cream (15/20 overall). Service this evening was, frankly, a shambles for a place of this level. We waited an age for our order to be taken, and dishes appeared in a leisurely fashion, in one case a main course arriving some time after the others had been delivered to the table. Towards the end of the evening, when things were quiet, staff were busy chatting to each other and getting attention was difficult, to put it mildly. Overall the cooking was very capable, though there were small slips, but essentially I have no issue with the food. However the poor service experience has now happened to me here too often to be put down as bad luck. It is simply not good enough for a restaurant charging these prices.
Here are notes from previous meals.
Situated by Bank tube, the premises consist of a large airy bar and casual dining area, with the fine dining room tucked away at the back. We were booked for 21:30 and arrived just a few minutes late (parking is a nightmare here) but it became icily apparent that we were in fact the last diners by some margin. There was a caucus of managerial staff as it was decided as to whether the kitchen could actually accommodate us, despite us being more than 15 minutes prior to their official closing time of 22:00. Eventually they grudgingly conceded that they could serve us provided we placed our order “immediately”. Not the start I was expecting. There were just four other diners, one couple on dessert and one couple lost on a haze of alcohol.
My mood was improved by the superb celeriac veloute amuse bouche, with superb texture and intense flavour (17/20 easily). My starter of tuna carpaccio was beautifully presented, circular slices of tuna presented as a flower petal, with a central lime and a circle of toasted sesame seeds, around which was a ginger and lime vinaigrette. The tuna was excellent and the dressing a perfect balance (17/20). Salad of crab was presented n three forms, the central one being a tian of crab with a red pepper top and a red pepper sauce, along with two caramelised langoustines and a gazpacho sorbet (16/20). A palate cleanser of red berry granita had perhaps slightly large ice crystals yet had good flavour (15/20). My main course of blackleg chicken was nicely cooked, with a few dried morels, good peas and young leeks in a vin jaune sauce (16/20). Better still was monkfish, extremely tender, with a superb ginger coriander and wasabi sauce that was bold with wasabi but still in control, served with a risotto of Thai crab that was slightly mushy. The monkfish and its sauce were 18/20, let down by the 15/20 risotto.
Chocolate pyramide had dark slabs of chocolate encasing a quite light yet rich mousse, with a tuile cage of almond milk granitee (17/20). Chocolate, whisky and coffee praline “Lombardo” also had intense flavour (17/20). Presentation was dazzling throughout, while ingredients were excellent and technical execution hard to fault. This to me was actually borderline 17/20 meal rather than 16/20. Service, after the initial hostility, was efficient and, eventually, pleasant. This visit was in October 2005, but a more recent visit’s notes follow.
It was pretty quiet here on a Monday evening, and although we sat down at 19:30 we managed to be the last people left in the whole restaurant by the end, though admittedly we did have the tasting menu. At £45 for nine courses seems remarkable value. Carpaccio of tuna with oriental spices had three very thin slices of merely pleasant tuna, served with ginger and lime vinaigrette, and black radish; tuna was sliced so thin it rather lacked taste (14/20). Better was feuillete of smoked haddock, served with a quail egg and a little mustard sauce (made with Colman’s English mustard). The sauce was nicely judged and was not too strong, giving a nice lift to the high quality haddock (17/20). Salad of artichokes, wild mushrooms and French beans had good components, served with a dressing of pumpkinseed oil and balsamic vinegar (15/20). A slab of seared foie gras was carefully cooked, offered with parsnip cream and a little white truffle oil. Perhaps something acidic or even earthy here would have been good to offset the richness of the liver, but it was well made (16/20).
A single scallop was fat and slightly sweet, grilled lightly and served with a little pile of provencal vegetables and pesto and a little saffron jus (17/20). Noisette of lamb was served pink and served with a good celeriac confit, carrot fondant and a little black winter truffle jus (16/20). Pave of Angus beef was cooked correctly but was harder to cut than one would wish, and I fear this was not the fault of the knife. This was served with a smear of morel sauce in vin jaune cream and a beer reduction, with a single baby leek (15/20).
Whiskey jelly with raspberry and bitter chocolate mousseline had good texture, served with sugar roasted coco beans and a coffee sauce (15/20). A feuillantine of caramelised Granny Smith apple was better, served with tasty glazed hazelnuts and smooth Guinness ice cream (16/20). Coffee and petit fours were fine (16/20). The wine list here was excellent, with some fine producers.
Service never seems friendly here, and indeed my wife was unable to try the tasting menu because she did not eat meat, and the kitchen refused to substitute alternative fish or vegetarian dishes for the meat course. I found this extremely unfriendly, and indeed I cannot ever recall this happening. Helmut Berger, who was around this evening, should learn something about pleasing his customers.