This restaurant at the Montcalm Hotel near Marble Arch opened in mid November 2013. The chef there is Arnaud Stevens, who was previously executive chef at The Gherkin, and had trained at Tante Claire, City Rhodes, Jardins des Sens and more recently at Maze Grill. You can get to the restaurant via the hotel lobby, but it also has its own dedicated entrance. The room is smart but not stuffy, with no tablecloths and a wooden floor. There are quite uncomfortable tan coloured armchairs and also some banquette seating, and on the ceiling is a display of hanging copper pipes.
The menu was modern British in style, with started price from £7 to £10, main courses from £15 to £23, and desserts £6 to £7. There was also a £22 three course set lunch available. The dining room can seat around 60 diners, and there is also a private dining room for up to 16 guests.
The wine list had around 130 choices and ranged in price from £20 to £2,200, with a lot of the list from France but also a reasonable selection from elsewhere. Example wines included Clement Termes Blanc Perle 2012 at £27.50 for a wine that you can find in the high street for £7, Petaluma Riesling at £44 for a wine that retails at £17, and Cevaro della Sala 2010 at £99 for a wine that will set you back £42 in a shop. Corkage is free on Sundays. On other days bringing your own wine is “discouraged”, and the charge “depends on the wine” according to the manager, but after some discussion a very reasonable £10 fee was agreed. As so often, corkage policy appears to be a murky area for this restaurant, as it is for many others.
Bread was made from scratch in the kitchen and was very good indeed. Crispy baguette had excellent texture, as did a classic sourdough bread, and Marmite bread was an interesting idea that was mercifully light in the distinctive flavor (easily 15/20 bread).
Jerusalem artichoke (£6) came with artichoke puree, girolles, toasted hazelnuts and baby spinach leaves. The mushrooms had very good flavour as did the hazelnuts, and the artichokes were carefully cooked – a seasonal and very enjoyable dish (15/20). I had a beetroot salad (£7) with walnuts and Cashel blue cheese. This was very pleasant, though there is a limit to how exciting you can make such a dish (still easily 13/20).
Sea bream (£18) was slow-cooked and came with thin slices of carrot, walnuts and two segments of grapefruit with a little meat jus with chervil as garnish, with a smear of parsley sauce on the side of the plate and some crushed potatoes. The fish cooking was accurate, the walnuts adding some texture and the grapefruit bringing useful acidity to cut through the richness of the meat jus (15/20).
Braised beef cheek (£19) was tender, served with black pudding, pancetta and Swiss chard gratin. The flavour of the latter was somewhat lost in the cheese, and given the black pudding this dish was quite rich and would have benefitted with another element to give it better balance (13/20).
Lemon meringue pie (£6) was nicely executed, the meringue delicate, the lemon flavour well balanced, served with a lemon ice cream (15/20). Coffee was good, supplied by a company called Rocket Coffee, and came with enjoyable macarons that had been made in the kitchen.
Chocolate hemisphere (£8) was made with good quality chocolate, containing a mousse of chocolate, yuzu and mandarin and a crunchy biscuit base, with finely crushed hazelnuts around the edge and a garnish of a chocolate square, with dots of mandarin sauce (15/20).
Service was friendly, although the long wait to take our order at the beginning of the meal suggested that the service operation has yet to smooth out a few kinks. The bill, albeit with us bringing our own wine and paying corkage, came to a modest £49 a head including service. However if you ordered a modest bottle of wine from the list then your meal, with coffee, water and service would come to perhaps £58 a head, which seems to me a bargain given the high standard of food and the central London location.