Editor's note: from mid 2017 the executive chef here is Kim Woodward, who was previously head chef of the Savoy Grill.
The redevelopment of the festival hall completed in summer 2007 and includes the Skylon restaurant in the place where the old People's Palace resided. However the refurbishment has much improved the space, which now consists of a vast, high-ceilinged room with spectacular drop windows overlooking the Thames. The menu features bistro British dishes, with three courses at £37.50 and two courses at £32.50. The wine list was very good with interesting growers from around the world, though mark-ups were fierce in places e.g. a dessert wine that retails at £16.50 for a half bottle was on the list at £75.
The notes below are from a meal in July 2007. My most recent meal was of a similar standard, though with a nice retro touch of crepes suzette flambeed at the table (I am sucker for theatre in restaurants).
Service was friendly though a little slipshod in places e.g. wine was not topped up on occasion, and there was a painfully long gap between the main course and dessert. The meal began with tube-shaped slivers of chicken liver pate on toast, which was pleasant though not very strong in flavour (13/20). My starter of carpaccio of scallops with chorizo was surprisingly bland, enlivened by some toasted almonds but with capers that had little impact on the dish (12/20). A salad of Cornish crab on an avocado mousse was better, topped with a few coriander leaves and a few baby tomatoes (14/20).
Wild salmon from Scotland was surprisingly limited in flavour, though cooked correctly, served with a watercress cream and pomme mousseline (13/20). Chateaubriand was cooked well enough but had only fair quality beef, served with mash flavoured with truffle, a little spinach and a tiny amount of madeira sauce (12/20). Dessert of crepes Suzette was done in the traditional way, flambeed at the table, but the pancakes were much too thick. It is possible they were pre-bought pancakes but either way they should have been light and thin rather than plump and heavy (12/20).
I was hoping for more from chef Helena Puolakka, who worked for Pierre Koffmann at the Berkeley and cooked really well in her stint at Sonnys. She is "executive chef", which I presume means she is not very hands on, though she was here this evening. Overall I loved the room and the view but was rather disappointed by the cooking, especially given the price.