Trendy new eateries may come and go, but a classic never dies. And such is the case at Quaglino’s, a culinary institution in the heart of London‘s plush Mayfair. Having first thrown open its doors in 1991, the restaurant has truly stood the test of time with an oversized space at 16 Bury Street that lends itself to two tiers; on the mezzanine level is a series of private dining rooms and bar; and on the ground level is an enormous restaurant. It is reached via a sweeping Dallas-style staircase, with diners sitting comfortably amid towering columns and beneath a fluorescent blue ceiling. Taking up one end is an open-plan kitchen and crustacea bar, where the city’s top movers and shakers come to shuck oysters and climb the social ladder.
Seated in a prime people-watching position, we wasted no time in getting stuck into the Modern European menu. Like the restaurant’s aesthetic and crowd, it’s classic — bordering, at times, on downright retro — and expectedly expensive. That said, the restaurant does have reasonable lunch prix fixe and pre- and post-theatre menus for those watching their pennies (which is everyone at the moment, right?). We opted for the bang bang chicken salad served with pickled vegetables and peanut dressing — light, refreshing and summery — and Quaglino’s famous steak tartare, served perfectly pink and with melba toast. A good douse of Tabasco spiced it up some.
Next up was confit of duck with sweet mustard dressed potatoes and spring onions — accompanied by a side order of fine green beans — and rump of lamb with fondant potato and black olive purée. Neither were done pink enough for our liking, but it’s a gripe that couldn’t distract from beautiful cuts of meat presented with razor-sharp flair. The accompaniments, too, were delicious. This was washed down with the sommelier’s recommendation; a rich, hearty 2005 South African Merlot (De Trafford, Stellenbosch). Beautiful, heartwarming stuff indeed.
With eyes bigger than our bellies, we couldn’t resist desserts; raspberry pavlova — fabulously fluffy and light — and a significantly heavier, more hedonistic treacle tart (which was left unfinished, but in no way unappreciated).
There wasn’t much buzz on a Monday evening, but come the weekend Quaglino’s is a different restaurant altogether with occasional live music and DJs. While the food here isn’t the king of invention, it does prove that well-done tried-and-tested favourites still have a place on the capital’s dinner table; and testament to that is its reservations book, fit-to-bursting with a regular roster of well-heeled regulars. Us now one of them.
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