Pavyllon is at the Four Seasons in Park Lane, and opened in June 2023 in the space that was once occupied by Amaranto. It is the London opening of French chef Yannick Alleno. After training at Hotel Sofitel Sèvres Mr Alleno joined Le Meurice as chef de cuisine in 2003, where he worked for a decade and gained three Michelin stars at Le Meurice. He was then recruited to take over Ledoyen, which as well as the main restaurant also has a two-star 12 seat sushi bar l’Abysse. He also runs 1947 in Courcheval and The Royal Mansour in Marrakech, with further outposts in Dubai, Taipei and Beijing and more, so quite a culinary empire covering sixteen restaurants at the time of writing. The executive chef in London is Benjamin Ferra y Castell, who worked for Mr Alleno in Dubai as well as in Paris prior to moving here.
The wine list had 420 labels and ranged in price from £38 to £23,500, with a median price of £165 and an average markup to retail price of 3.6 times, which is hefty even by the demanding standards of Mayfair. Sample references were Coda di Volpe Cantina Vadiaperti 2021 at £38 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £11, Faugères Clos Fantine 2019 at £62 compared to its retail price of £22, and Isole e Olena Chianti Classico 2019 at £88 for a wine that will set you back £29 in the high street. For those with the means there was Brunello di Montalcino, Biondi-Santi 2016 at £570 compared to its retail price of £209, and Château Lafleur Les Pensées de Lafleur 2009 at a hefty £860 for a wine whose current market value is £235. Sparkling water was £7 for a 750 ml bottle. The corkage policy is £100 a bottle, but if the wine has a market value of more than £300 this escalates to 30% of the market price e.g. for a £500 bottle of wine the corkage would be £167. This value-based policy seems pretty absurd to me. For sure, there is a cost for a restaurant if a customer brings their own wine. There is some profit foregone on what they would have sold, and the customer benefits from the stemware that need to be topped up by staff and washed. So, a corkage charge is a reasonable idea in itself, and is often set at the selling price of the house wine. In the Pavyllon case the corkage policy is basically trying to be a form of income tax: if you have a very expensive bottle them the restaurant wants 30% of its current market price, which of course may be much more than someone paid for it years ago when they put it in their cellar. This is a policy that essentially says: we really, really don’t want you to bring your own wine, especially the good stuff.
The dining room is smartly decorated, with a view over Park Lane on one side and of the open kitchen on the opposite side. The place can seat 90 covers at one time, with a further 55 in the bar area. There were several menu options. A full tasting menu was £148 and a set lunch was £55.50, with an a la carte offering in between. We began with a canape of a tartlet of carrot cream, Mimolette cheese (from Lille) and lemon gel. This was pleasant enough but the mild, vaguely nutty taste of the cheese with the carrot didn’t really sing out and seemed subdued (14/20). We then had a Lebanese flatbread called man’oushe that was topped with mixed herbs, black garlic, pistachio and ginger gel and a touch of curry flavour. This had excellent texture and the flavours here were a lot more vibrant than in the canape (16/20).
Gazpacho came with celery sorbet and pesto, and on the side was toasted focaccia with cured ham. I am not sure what really tied together these two different elements of soup with ham, but the main issue for me was the gazpacho itself. A classic gazpacho should taste primarily of high-quality tomatoes mixed with peppers and cucumber, flavoured with a little garlic and olive oil, but here the tomato flavour seemed almost incidental as the dominant taste was celery. Perhaps it would have been better just to call it a cold celery soup because this was quite a long way from what I was expecting from a gazpacho. Of course, there are dozens of variations on gazpacho recipes, but if you call a dish something then surely it should at least resemble what people are expecting, even if you want to put some cheffy twist on a classic. Even ignoring this, the problem for me was that celery was simply too dominant (12/20). I also tasted the “not so classic prawn cocktail”, which had nicely cooked prawns that came with fennel, dill, cucumber, trout roe and Parmesan. This seemed to me an ill-judged combination, especially the Parmesan, which did not go well with the prawns at all in my view (13/20).
A steamed Cheddar cheese soufflé was made with a watercress coulis and bacon butter. The souffle was technically well made, but the grassy watercress flavour was surprisingly strong relative to the bacon and cheese, both of which were quite subdued. Hence this was more a watercress souffle than a cheese souffle in terms of flavour. That is not such a bad thing, but for me more bacon and more cheese would have improved the dish (14/20).
Far and away the dish of the meal was a langoustine tart, with thin puff pastry and a sauce of beurre blanc with a garnish of oscietra caviar (from French supplier Prunier). The pastry was very delicate, the langoustine beautifully sweet, the beurre blanc being just sharp enough to work well with the shellfish. There were, mercifully, no weird additional elements to the dish, showing that when the kitchen restrains itself then it is capable of executing a lovely classical dish (18/20).
Breaded langoustine with curry mayonnaise and a salad had a well-cooked langoustine but the curry flavour was of homeopathic proportions, so this was a perfectly pleasant dish but one that could really have done with a stronger use of spices in the curry mayonnaise. A somewhat similar dish (langoustine with sesame and curry) is a classic at Ambroisie, and sadly the comparison was all too stark (14/20).
I tasted my companion’s dish of roasted crown of pigeon with pigeon leg confit, wild dill puree, gratinated foie gras toast and blackcurrant gel, which had nicely cooked pigeon and good flavour balance. I had beef stroganoff made with beef fillet, crispy potato strings, paprika and a base of basmati rice. The beef was nicely cooked to medium rare and the contrasting texture of the crisp potato worked well; for me rather more paprika would have improved the dish, but this was certainly very pleasant (15/20). A side dish of courgette and fennel was fine, though it is hard to make courgette thrilling.
Peach baked in Arlette crust (buttery puff pastry cinnamon biscuits) came with red berry sorbet and crystallised mint. The pastry was very good but the peach was surprisingly lacking in flavour despite being right in season. The red berry and mint flavours became the focus, which didn’t feel right despite the nice pastry (13/20). I tasted a chocolate souffle flambeed with Amaretto, a quite classic dish that was well made, though I have to say that I have eaten many better chocolate souffles over the years. At least we finished on a high note with crepe Suzette souffle, a superbly executed souffle with just enough flavour of caramelised sugar and butter, orange and Grand Marnier. The texture was excellent and the flavours were in lovely balance. For once in this meal a modern take on a classic dish really worked (17/20). Coffee was a Brazilian coffee from a specialty roaster called Mozzo Coffee in Hampshire, and was very good indeed.
Service was very good, our waitress Veronica being particularly charming. The bill came to £321 per person all in, with some good but not especially high-end wine from the list, plus one corkage charge and a half bottle of dessert wine. If you had the tasting menu then once you add in water, coffee, some modest wine (if you could find one on the list) and service then a realistic cost per person would likely be at least £220. Going a la carte would end up in a similar place, with for example the langoustine tart costing £78, the stroganoff £58, desserts £18 and even the gazpacho £26, a dish that must make a particularly healthy contribution to the bottom line. Only the cheaper £55.50 lunch menu offers some monetary relief, but you still have to consider the highly marked up wine list and the £8 coffee. Even with the cheapest menu a realistic cost per person with modest wine, coffee, water and service would be £115.
Pavyllon has a very smart Mayfair setting and slick service. The flexible nature of the menu was good, but a lot of dishes seemed to me rather overwrought, often having jarring elements in a misguided effort to be original. This resulted in some missteps, and this was all the more frustrating when you consider that a couple of the dishes today (the langoustine tart and crepes Suzette souffle) were really top drawer. The kitchen can certainly deliver some fine dishes, but at present the standard is erratic, and that is troublesome at this price point.