The Square originally opened in St James in 1991, then moved to Bruton Street in 1997. It gained a Michelin star in 1994, and two stars in 1998, which it has retained ever since. Phil Howard’s cooking is quite classical in style, though by no means old-fashioned. The dining room has a somewhat masculine feel, with wood panelling and widely spaced tables covered in crisp white linen tablecloths.
The Square is noted for its extensive and (by central London standards) modestly priced wine list, starting at £24 and with over 1,000 choices, at a median price of £145. Franck Massard Cesta Granacha-Samso 2009 was £29.50 for a wine that you can find in the high street for £7.80, Mount Difficulty Pinot Noir 2009 was £45 for a wine that retails at £24, and Neudorf Moutere Pinot Noir 1995 was £95 compared to a shop price of around £31. The relative mark-ups moderate considerably as you move up the list. Leflaive Batard Montrachet 2000 was £400 for a wine that will set you back £279 in a shop, Louis Jadot Le Montrachet 1996 at £395 for a wine that retails at £375.
Beetroot salad was prettily presented, served with charred celeriac and semi-dried pear with goat’s curd, pickled walnuts and ice wine vinegar. The components were good, though I would have preferred a little more sharpness, as there was a hint of sweetness about the dish that I am not sure completely worked (16/20). I felt on surer ground with the well-established dish here of sautéed Scottish langoustine tails with Parmesan gnocchi and an emulsion of potato and truffle. The shellfish were lovely, the gnocchi having a pleasing hint of firmness (18/20). Rabbit on a bed of pasta with white truffles was very enjoyable, the rabbit tender and avoiding the drying-out that so often afflicts this dish, the pasta having very good texture (17/20).
Loin of fallow deer was served on a tarte fine of pear and celeriac, and on the side a pan of creamed polenta, beetroot and green peppercorns. This was another enjoyable dish, the meat having good flavour, the pastry having been rendered a little soggier than it doubtless started by its contact with the meat (17/20).
Brillat-Savarin cheesecake with passion fruit, lime and coconut is another familiar dish here, the balance of the dish excellent, with the fruits cutting through the richness of the cheesecake, the texture of the base good (18/20).
The bill, with just water to drink, came to £121 a head, with a la carte dishes rather than those from a set menu. Service was excellent This was a very enjoyable meal, the first that I have had since long-standing head chef Rob Weston (under Phil Howard) moved to La Trompette. I do not think the standard of the cooking has really changed that much following this, but as at my last meal here the best dishes at 18/20 level, the average closer to 17/20 standard. The prices here are quite high, but this is certainly one of London’s best dining experiences.