Wild Honey

12 St George Street, Mayfair, London, England, W1S 2FB, United Kingdom

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Wild Honey is the sister to Arbutus, and opened in July 2007. Its decor seems to me an unhappy blend of old and new. The wood panelled room (ex Drones) is clearly Mayfair club territory, with somewhat uncomfortable banquette seating. The designer presumably decided that this was too old fashioned, so has attempted to modernise it with a few pieces of abstract art. One piece is of some ill-defined animals cavorting: "Are those rats?" I asked the waiter. "That's exactly what I thought, but apparently they are cats and dogs" was the reply. Well, what do I know about art.

The bread is from Exeter Street Bakery and is a simple choice of well made slices of either brown or white bread (15/20). The wine list is of manageable proportions with tolerable mark-ups, and mimics Arbutus in its appealing choice of carafes as well as bottles. The menu is rather more appealing than Arbutus, with slightly less spartan ingredients e.g. halibut and sea bass rather than pollack, though there is corned beef - corned beef? A salad of smoked eel has tasty eel, a little beetroot and some horseradish cream with well-controlled horseradish flavour, along with some decent leaves (14/20). A salad of organic (i.e. farmed) salmon had good leaves also but suffered from a pallid-looking, tasteless salmon, along with a sorrel mayonnaise that lacked much taste of sorrel (12/20).

Sea bass was cooked without its skin, an odd decision since this not only results in a loss of flavour and moisture but ends up with a brown, mushy appearance without the attractive silver skin (this served with brown mushrooms). The sea bass was again farmed and so rather tasteless but cooked nicely, served with decent girolles and slightly overcooked borlotti beans, but also a couple of braised leeks, which didn't give any real interest to an already rather tasteless dish (14/20 if I am kind). This was better than a watery piece of halibut, served with a selection of vegetables and allegedly a dressing of lemon thyme which had no discernible flavour of lemon thyme whatever, even to the bloodhound-like sense of smell of my wife. The peas were OK but the carrots were both utterly tasteless and badly overcooked (12/20).

Wild honey ice cream was adequate but lacked honey flavour, supplemented by a few bits of crushed honeycomb to add a texture contrast (13/20). A tart of plums suffered from hard pastry, though the plums themselves were fine, the tart accompanied by a decent peach sauce (14/20). Coffee was good, with a generous double espresso (15/20). The chef is Colin Kelly, a long time colleague of Mr Demetre at Putney Bridge, and we did have the treat of that rarest of things: an English waiter in London, a Mr Anthony Bodo. It is nearly two years since I last spotted an English waiter in a London restaurant, a certain Matthew Jolleys at the Ledbury, and I expect there to be a new trend of people with Burberrys wandering around London restaurants noting the comings and goings of such rare creatures. Service was good, and the dishes arrive at a healthy clip.

Overall this was much as I recall Arbutus, simple food that is mostly correctly cooked, but with cheap ingredients. I can easily cook such things at home, but with far better ingredients, so for me this is a restaurant with little interest. When I eat out I want something that I cannot easily make myself. The price was not that high, but at £65 a head with a £36 bottle of wine it is hardly dirt cheap either. Clearly they have tapped into a successful formula here, but to me this is rather cynical cooking. It will no doubt do very well.

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  • David Woodhead

    We last ate here in the relatively early days of the restaurant. Then the tables were rather crammed together and this presumably enabled the restaurant to hold prices down for pleasant, if hardly sensational, food. A visit in March 2015 was a rather different experience. Tables are generously spaced and the overall atmosphere, in quite a comfortable room, is very agreeable, as is the service. But the customer pays for this, and could be misled by the prices shown on the website. For example, mains are shown as starting at £24. In fact, only a rather uninteresting sounding vegetarian option is £24, with all the other mains being at least £10 pricier. An initial, modest offering of good bread is free, but if you want anymore, then you pay £4. Coffee is £7 which, even with the small accompanying selection of petits fours, seems way over the top. As for the food, it was fine - but are sauces completely out of fashion?

  • Bellaphon

    Dining out on a Sunday evening is more than oft challenging. Places I would like to seek out which include Hawksmoor, Murano or Pied à Terre are all shut on the Sabbath. I’d wanted to blow myself away with a steak dinner at the Maze Grill, but they were fully booked (Sunday evening!) and I was even shooed away with my request of ‘I’ll take a 5.45pm slot instead’. By sheer fate or destiny, Wild Honey accepted our reservation at an extremely short notice. I’ve been meaning to visit this place for quite some time but have always found myself somewhat reluctant to do so. I adore its sister restaurant Arbutus, but I had this fear of any disappointing facsimile of Arbutus would most probably stop me altogether from visiting it again. Fear eats the soul at the best of times. But not this evening as the fear was immediately quashed when I entered the dining room. Wild Honey was brilliant from start to finish. For instance, the tone and mannerism of the young lady who took my reservation on the phone had already assured me that I was going to have a decent time. Service was genuinely friendly and proficient. The dining room was not too unlike the under lit Galvin Bistrot de Luxe on Baker Street and the view of St Georege’s Church across the road was impressive. Great choices of wines by the carafe at not too silly prices were an absolute bonus. My dining companion’s (DC) starter of Ribollita - Tuscan bean and veg soup was comfortingly wholesome and fulfilling. My slow cooked hare shoulders (Jugged hare, methinks) in red wine and soft polenta was outstanding; think superior braised beef brisket for the discerning palate. Both our mains of fish (I know it’s strange for purists to eat fish on Sundays, as Billingsgate doesn’t open till Tuesday) were brilliantly executed and fresh tasting. DC’s Icelandic Cod (eat more of this and help the ailing Icelandic fiasco!), crisp polenta and wood roasted piquillo peppers was pronounced faultless and a triumph. My mains of Marseille style Bouillabaisse was epic in portion and presentation, if only that I’d known of this large serving I would’ve skipped the starters. The soup was intensely flavoured and the separately served portions of Red Mullet, Gunard and I think Conger Eel were mesmeric to say the least. Even if you haven’t been to Marseille, I think Wild Honey has done us a great favour! Bloated as I was, my pudding of “how could you possibly refuse something that’s been described as” Warm chocolate soup with milk ice cream was so utterly delicious it was enough to postpone any diets and confirm to yourself that an extra inch increased on the waistline was justifiably deserved. This homemade looking pudding course overshadowed DC’s Wild honey ice cream and crushed honeycomb without doubt. If Wild Honey (or for that matter Arbutus) was to aspire for a second star; they’ll probably need to apply the following. Introduce a tasting menu at 100 squid a head, poach a snooty sommelier from somewhere (and discard the wonderful carafe options) and worst of all reconfigure the way the said chocolate pudding is presented and reduce its quantity at the same time. I don’t think they need to readjust to those changes and they probably know that too, Wild Honey is unsynthetically and inherently three stars in every way.