Thursday 26 March 2015

A nice afternoon in London bookended with trips to and from Hatton Cross; travel savings!  First we hop into the Theatre Royal Haymarket to reacquaint ourselves with Harvey.  Well not Harvey himself you understand – but James Dreyfuss and Maureen Lipman as they can see him and talk to him.  I believe whisky aids the visual senses in this case.  I saw James Stewart do the same play 40 years ago; Tom Baker was in the audience in front of us and we all gave him a standing ovation.  James D may not be quite that special but the play is still highly entertaining – if sadly lacking a full audience.  Go – you won’t regret it.

Having dined in the area often over the years (and the area has good and bad) we had decided to wander along Jermyn Street to that long standing haven of the very rich – Wilton’s – a grand old establishment owned by the Hambro family.  For a long time it was also regularly mentioned in despatches by the late Michael Winner on the back page of the Sunday Times.  It is another example of a “London” restaurant of another era – similar perhaps to Rules and also to Scott’s.  Before I go further just make sure you can really afford it!  I am told the average pensioner has dispoable income of £300 per month – so you can all go there at least once a month.  These older establishments are places I would like to go regularly but other more modern places are available and will be mentioned here as we get there!

Welcomed (unlike Café Murano) although early and shown to a table and my wife accepted a glass of champagne.  I would eventually be driving.  Provided with menus a slight disappointment set in.  Online the Stilton cheese soufflé was on the “Spring” menu and I was hoping this would keep the cost under control as it was the promise of said dish that had got my wife to agree to the visit.  Oh dear; luckily it remains on the full carte.  My wife is “off” fish since her run in with a sea bass on the bone in Spain (we swapped main courses) which seeing that this is a fish restaurant rather reduces her options; even on the carte.  And because we are so early (and quite reasonably) the carving roast (pork on the day concerned) will not be available until 7 or after; I do not blame them for that – they do not need it sitting around for some hours.  My wife settles for a steak and the Maitre d’ advises that there is a venison special – wellington style.  This would mean eating venison two days in a row.  The deal is done and I sign up for the venison wellington.

The wine list is a challenge in terms of price.  I thought for a moment this would be the first time I would spend more than £50 on a bottle of wine but by heading to Argentina this target was just missed.  However given the mark ups being applied in London it cannot be long before spending £50 on a bottle become a de facto standard and I am not sure it can be justified.  Having just returned from Nerja where a €20 bottle could seem excessive, pricing in London must be cutting visitor numbers and diners.

We have both chosen to start with the Stilton cheese soufflé and this was an absolutely stunning starter.  The stilton surrounded the soufflé which is not served in a ramikin having been turned out.  Still very tasty.

The main courses come completely bare of accompaniment so we had ordered some french beans and some fries to add to our venison and steak.  All of the food was very good.  A succulent tender piece of vension wrapped in pastry with a paté between meat and pastry was excellent.  Surrounding my wellington was a well reduced sauce which complimented the meal well.  My wife was offered but turned down the bearnaise sauce – but the kitchen kindly and quickly produced a peppercorn sauce which is not normally offered to accompany her steak.

As mentioned they were not busy so we had a change to chat with the wine waiter about why we were there and other places we enjoy.  Although the venison cooled during this, it was an absolute delight to eat.  [As for other places to eat you will just have to follow these postings!]

Neither of us had room for a third course, although having seen the cheese trolley as we left, this might have been a mistake.

Coffees are joined with a small piece of ice cream in an outer chocolate and nut covering – very tasty and moreish.  Only one each though!

Now remember; we are in central London; we are in a historic, long established dining haven in Jermyn Street; the wine list is priced up.  And service is 12.5%.  Slight panic did set in when a bill of £194 was presented.  But it was right, so time to pay up and toddle off to the Underground.

So there are two sides to this.  The quality of service, food and wine were beyond reproach and the surroundings are impressive and well maintained.  However that is still a lot of money to pay.

The GFG rating is 4.  For the same rating around the corner is Café Murano; so if you like Italian then you will go around the corner.  If I want the “English” experience then I think I prefer Rules and I suspect both would be less expensive.  To get a fair comparison I probably need to return to Café Murano and eat from the full menu!

More will follow next month as we are leaving the London area and will report from further afield.