This restaurant, within the Flemings Hotel, is the London outpost of Shaun Rankin, and opened in late September 2016.. Mr Rankin runs the restaurant Ormer in St Helier on the island of Jersey, which currently has a Michelin star. He was head chef of Bohemia in Jersey for nine years and opened Ormer in Jersey in 2013. The dining room is in the basement of the hotel and is smartly decorated, with art deco style lamps and carpeted room, meaning a blissfully quiet room due to the lack of hard surfaces.
The head chef at Ormer Mayfair is Kerth Gumbs, originally from Anguilla in the Caribbean, who was senior sous chef at the Arts Club in nearby Dover Street and prior to that worked with Jason Atherton in Singapore, and as a sous chef at The Wolseley. There was a set lunch at £29.50 and a tasting menu at £75. From the carte, starters were £13-18, main courses £29 to £35 and desserts £9 - £12. There was also a full set of vegetarian and vegan options. The wine list ranged in price from £22 to £520, with labels such as Nieto Senetiner Torrontes Cafayate 2015 at £26 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £10, Kendall Jackson Vintners Reserve Chardonnay 2014 at £39 compared to its retail price of £16 and Domaine Henri Gouges Nuits St Georges 2011 at £96 for a wine that will set you back £29 in a shop. The list had several English wines, including a selection from Nyetimber and Ridgeview. In addition there was a “library wine" section with prestiage bottles such as Cheval Blanc 1999 at £645 compared to its retail price of £398, and Petrus 1990 at £4,500 for a bottle whose current market value is £3,964.
Bread was a white bread from a bakery in Hendon, and vastly better brown sourdough that tasted as though it was from Hedone. An amuse-bouche was brioche containing lobster with fennel ceviche. The bread had good texture and the lobster and fennel flavours worked well together (14/20). Crab from Jersey came with, pear, lime, mooli (daikon aka winter radish) and a peanut dressing. The pear provided welcome acidity and the crab was shell-free and had good flavour. I was worried about the peanut dressing, since this can be such a strong flavour, but it was pleasingly restrained, and the lime added freshness (15/20). Even better was ravioli stuffed with scallop and lobster mousse, along with a crab salad, tomato bisque, bak choi and a shallot salad with puffed rice, garnished with coriander. This was a classy dish: the pasta was delicate, the lobster and scallop mousse had lovely flavour and texture, the bak choi was carefully cooked and the coriander added a floral, citrus flavour note that worked really well (17/20).
For main course, slow cooked Dover sole came with a potato and leek risotto. leek ash, smoked salmon, caper salad and notionally crisp quail egg. This was pleasant but less successful, the smoked salmon decent but the quail egg a touch soggy, though the fish was fine (14/20). “Secreto” of Iberico pork was, despite the waiter’s denial, actually pluma (the porcine equivalent of a flank cut) that had been marinated with paprika and served with chorizo puree, calamari, grilled chorizo chutney cooked with red onions, compressed pear and a fennel salad with apple gel. This was a complex dish with many elements. The pluma was a touch chewy but had bags of flavour. The calamari was tender, the fennel salad was good and the compressed pear was lovely, its acidity just what was needed to balance the richness of the pluma and the chorizo (15/20).
A pre-dessert of coffee with tiramisu flavours was remarkable, tasting of salted caramel and with deep, intense coffee flavour. Often pre-desserts are a bit of a throwaway dish, but this was superb (18/20). Apple crumble was served inside a white chocolate shell, with caramel and vanilla ice cream. This was pretty and nicely executed (15/20). Baked Alaska was also good, the blackberry and vanilla flavours coming through well and working nicely together, the blackberries presumably prepared with sugar since they were not too sharp (15/20).
After all this culinary skill it was a pity to end the meal with ordinary Lavazza coffee. There are so many better coffee roasters in London these days than these catering suppliers so beloved of hotels. Service was excellent throughout the meal, attentive and patient. The bill came to £152 a head with a nice bottle of Grosset Polish River Riesling and pre-dinner drinks. If you just shared a modest bottle of wine then a typical cost per head might be nearer to £95.
Overall I was genuinely surprised by the standard of cooking that I encountered at Ormer Mayfair. This is a restaurant that has been open for a few months but has been almost invisible in the restaurant press and social media. As a restaurant in a Mayfair hotel rather than is, say, Exmouth Market or Shoreditch , it lacks cutting-edge buzz. That is fine with me – the food here is grown-up, sophisticated and well made. The best dishes here tonight were of a seriously high standard.
At a second meal a few days later I tried the set lunch. We repeated some dishes, but also tried a few different ones. Veloute of Jerusalem artichokes came with toffee and truffle brioche. The soup could have been a touch warmer but the flavour was deep and the brioche worked well (15/20). Guinea fowl came with potato terrine, charred cabbage and Madeira jus. The bird was carefully cooked and the cabbage was a good foil to its flavour. Additionally there was a tasty little croquette of the meat, while the potato croquette had excellent texture (16/20). Salt-baked sea bass came with artichokes, saffron and black olive caramel. The fish was very nicely cooked and the artichokes and olives complemented it nicely (15/20). This set lunch meal confirmed to me the standards of the first meal, and all at a modest price – the bill for lunch with a glass of wine, coffee and service was £53 a head.