Mr. and Ms. Smith are a couple of fellow hedonists and now regular contributors to the Hg2 Blog. Their identities? A mystery. We’ll be bringing you their restaurant reviews each and every week. This week the couple finish off a long week at Villandry, one of London’s most fabulous French eateries.
Read Mr. & Ms. Smith’s last review here
Check out Mr & Ms Smith’s blog here
Villandry, 170 Great Portland Street, W1W
Ms. Smith: It’s a real drag when work takes priority over fun, but (thankfully) that’s rarely the case in my life. I’m a hedonist, after all, and as a hedonist of long-standing I try whenever possible to put pleasure before productivity. Not that I don’t work, but after 20-something years of being freelance (and thanks to the wonders of the Internet), I’m pretty much able to set my own hours. My day usually begins at 7.30am with me talking on the phone, in my white towelling dressing gown, and ends at 7.30pm with me talking on the phone, often still in my white towelling dressing gown. Occasionally, I go into a place called my office but not usually until after rush hour and only when I feel like it and have changed my clothes.
I haven’t had a proper boss in so long that friends of mine doubt if I ever could. Still, my financial situation being what it is, I’m wondering if I shouldn’t rejoin the rat race, just to clear my overdraft and a few credit card debts. Wondering, but not really doing much about it, except ramping up my profile on LinkedIn and looking through my old Rolodex for inspiration. The nature of my precarious employment situation is that sometimes I work a little and sometimes far too much.
This last week was one of those flat out-weeks, leaving me precious little time to spend with Mr. Smith. But fun is fun and Mr. Smith and I have a reputation to live up to. Mr. Smith also had a busy week, chaperoning his boss around town but decided that he could take an hour or so off on Friday afternoon and booked us a table for two at Villandry.
Mr. Smith is rather partial to French cooking and so am I, being the kind of woman that believes that food is meant to be flavourful and filling, not something that merely keeps us alive. I’ve never understood the lettuce-leaf-and-Diet-Coke-a-day brigade. With a Cordon Bleu-trained chef for a mother, I was brought up to believe that food is to be savored and enjoyed and nobody does this quite as well as the French.
Three restaurants in one, Villandry aims to satisfy all price brackets under one roof. For a quick fix of tapas, a sandwich or a salad, there are long, wooden benches and tables in the Charcuterie. It’s often busy during the day and doesn’t take bookings so I advise turning up by 12.45pm before the office brigade and ladies-who-shop arrive in full force. After 1pm, you’ll be queuing for a table and I haven’t queued since Summer ’88, when I waited three hours for tickets to see Prince at the Birmingham NEC. That was a concert worth queuing for; a table at a restaurant is not. The Villandry Bar is more your typical French café menu, featuring burgers, Croque Monsieurs, salads and a few pasta dishes alongside a reasonably priced wine menu, all available by the glass or bottle.
Mr. Smith had booked us into the Fine Dining Restaurant, the only part of the restaurant I’d had yet to experience, and so I was looking forward to trying it out almost as much as playing footsie with Mr. Smith under the table.
Mr. Smith: In the immortal words of Ronald Reagan: “It is true hard work never killed anyone, but I figure why take the chance.” With those words in mind and the pressures of a long work week coming to an end, Mr. Smith and Ms. Smith decided to embark on a spot of fine French dining to kick the weekend off in style. Where have we not been on the famous Mr. Smith preferred French bistro list? Villandry?
‘Not been in ages,’ I said to Ms. Smith. So long, in fact, that the décor had completely changed. Unfortunately for the worse. Bland Conranesqe chrome glass by way of Ikea flat-pack with shades of magnolia and mushroom on the walls.
Now for the good news. The food and wine were fantastic. Ms. Smith, ever the eye for value, wisely chose us two glasses of the house white. Delicious! A Villandry house label undoubtedly chosen from a long standing relationship with a top wine producer based in the value conscious south western wine region of France. Best house white in many moons for Mr. Smith.
No bells and whistles on the well balanced menu. All heart-warming, life-affirming French bistro fare. Given the aforementioned work-related pressures, we passed on starters and dove into the mains. Too many delicious sounding choices.
“Let me guess,” Ms. Smith had piped up. “You’re going for the rib-eye?” Yes, ever the carnivore in pursuit of the best steak in the world, I opted for the steak. Ms. Smith went with the pork belly, with crackling so hard she requested a chain saw to cut through it, just the way she likes it. The side order of creamed spinach was indeed creamy. Ms. Smith polished it off.
And the steak? Surprisingly one of the best in recent memory. Perfectly cooked medium-rare, lovely blend of well-hung meat and wood grilling flavours and bouquet. Really, really great. We complimented our fine meal with a great bottle of Vaqueras. Always good value from the Southern Rhone.
By this stage I was all revved up and ready to go after a fine bit of dining, but alas, this was not to be as Ms. Smith had to dash.