This restaurant in the Thompson Belgraves Hotel opened in September 2013, replacing Hix previously on the site. Head chef Sophie Michell, after training at Le Gavroche and The Greenhouse, was private chef to Claudia Schiffer for two years, then did assorted consulting assignments and published several cookery books before taking her first head chef role here at the age of 31. The style of cooking is European, with a slight emphasis on seafood.
The wine list started at £25 and ranged quite widely around the world. Spee’Wah Semillon/Sauvignon 2012 was £28 for a wine that you can find in the high street for £7, Villa Russiz Pinot Grigio 2010 was £47 for a wine that you can find in a shop for £18, and Stonier Chardonnay 2010 was £65 for a wine that retails at about £17. This being Belgravia, there were some grander wines too but still at stiff mark-ups, such as Tiers Petaluma 2009 at an ambitious £170 for a wine that can be found in a shop for about £44, and Girardin Batard Montrachet 2010 at an excessive £500 for a wine that retails at £178.
The 70-seat dining room has a tiled floor, plenty of mirrors and, with no tablecloths, a fairly casual feel. There was a cheap lunch menu at £19 for two courses, whilst on the a la carte starters ranged from £11.50 to £14.50, main courses £14.50 to £25 with side dishes a hefty £5, desserts £4.50 to £7.50.
The bread at my first lunch was supplied from Sally Clarke, a choice of three rolls. To be honest these were not great, the olive roll especially having a distinctly chewy texture (barely 12/20). I was pleased to see that at a later dinner they had begun to make their own bread, a choice of three different flavours of brioche. Onion brioche was very good indeed, a vast improvement on the bought-in loaves (14/20).
A starter of poached quince salad had endive, walnuts and Cashel blue cheese along with the poached fruit. The endive leaves were good, their slight bitterness working nicely with the sweetness of the quince, and the walnuts gave some textural balance to the dish (14/20).
Venison and chestnut ragu with papardelle pasta had pleasant pasta that was a touch on the firm side, the ragu enjoyable and nicely seasoned though it could have had greater intensity of flavour; the chestnut did not come through strongly (13/20).
For dessert, passion fruit posset was topped with a garnish of candied pistachios and “raspberry glass”. Posset is an extremely simple dessert to make but is easy to get wrong in terms of balance between the fruit, cream and sugar. This one was very good, the fruit and sugar nicely complementary. The candied pistachios were harmless enough, but the only thing that did not seem quite right to me was the raspberry-flavoured sugar, which was very hard in texture and too thick, so that it really did come across as a sharp shard that was a little scary to bite into. If it had been much thinner it could have worked, but I am not really sure what this added – a simple biscuit tuile would have achieved the texture contrast better, at least for me (13/20, more for the posset alone).
Coffee was Illy, and although the initial double espresso measure was entertainingly tiny, they were nice about topping it up. Service was very good, attentive and friendly, led by a manager who had previously worked at Colettes at The Grove. Overall the lunch I ate here was very pleasant, and at £26 (set menu with just water to drink) was entirely reasonable. In the evening, a three course meal with a modest wine and coffee would set you back at least £70 a head.
At a later dinner we tried a range of “small plates”. We were advised that two small plates were equivalent to one starter, but they were actually a decent enough size, as well they might be at £11.50 –to £15 each, so it felt like we over-ordered a little. Salt and pepper squid had non-chewy cephalopod and a decent batter with a few slivers of potent red chillies, but the salt and pepper was oddly subdued. There was a garnish of kaffir lime and lemongrass with this (13/20). Raw tuna with sesame, wasabi and tobiko (flying fish roe) was enjoyable, the fish of good quality, though the wasabi was barely present (14/20).
This was more successful than scallop ceviche with chilli, coconut, lime and keta (chum salmon). The scallop itself was of reasonable quality, but the dominant taste was coconut, the lime in the ceviche distinctly muted (12/20). I was not taken by the blinis with warm potted shrimp and pea shoots. The blinis themselves were flabby rather than fluffy, the prawn decent but the pea shoots did not seem an obvious pairing (11/20).
Crab cakes were served with spicy mayonnaise and cucumber pickle. These were cooked well, the spicing at a sensible level, but the dish was marred by having not one but several pieces of crab shell; Santa clearly did not bring the kitchen a UV lamp this year. I will score this 13/20 but more than one piece of crab shell is careless. My grilled mackerel with salad was fine, the mackerel cooked well and the mixed salad nicely dressed, but £19.50 is an awful lot for a bit of merely pleasant grilled mackerel (13/20). On the side, mash was nicely buttery (14/20), kale undercooked (12/20), celeriac gratin pleasant if a touch dry (13/20) and spinach with chilli nicely cooked though light on chilli (13/20). Each of these side dishes cost £5, so the bill mounts up quickly.
For dessert, posset was as nice as it was last time, and ice creams were fine. Service was very good, the waiter friendly and attentive. With a corkage charge of £20 our bill for dinner came to £82 a head, which to be honest is an awful lot of money for what is capable, pleasant, but hardly exceptional cooking. The set lunch definitely offers better value. Overall I enjoyed the food at Pont Street, with its appealing menu and generally good cooking, but the pricing seems distinctly ambitious, even for Belgravia.