Launched late last year, The Trafalgar Dining Rooms on Trafalgar Square provide a fine feast, when it arrives, writes Olenka Hamilton
Occupying an entire corner of Trafalgar Square, a stone’s throw from the National gallery, Mayfair and the Mall, it is hard to imagine a more desirable location for a hotel to establish itself in. Its name and location naturally conjure up images of Nelsonian splendour (the rooftop bar looks out onto the square and is level with Nelson’s nose). So when I hear of its ground floor restaurant, the grandly named The Trafalgar Dining Rooms, I am determined to try it, if only to experience what I imagine will be a historic banquet fit for an admiral.
Instead what resides behind the promising traditional white-washed Georgian façade is a very modern interior. We are greeted by a shiny new bar with swivelling bar stools, past which a vast, sprawling and almost completely empty restaurant painted blue, with brown banquettes. There isn’t a Turner in sight. Nor a staff member for that matter.
As we appear to be the only customers, it is confusing when no one seems to be remotely interested in our arrival. My companion waits patiently, while I pace up and down a lot, and after what feels like half an hour, we are taken to our table. We then wait even longer for our menus.
When these arrive, the Mediterranean dishes on offer do sound appealing which is spirit-lifting – and a great relief because at this point we are really hungry. We are also thirsty but the wine is not forthcoming. We wait. We ask where the wine is. When it arrives, we down it in one. An hour later, the National Gallery looking distinctly more blurry than when we arrived, our food arrives.
I start with the grilled sardines which come with green chilli, parsley and garlic. They are sweet, simple and delicate and almost worth the wait. My companion orders the cured beef with pecorino and egg yolk, which, much like the sardines, is a triumph because of the purity of the ingredients, which complement each other perfectly. We are buoyed by the food, though worried we may have to wait another hour for the main course. We order another bottle of wine just in case.
An hour and half into our lunch, the main course arrives, just in time to order more wine. I have the lentil moussaka with ricotta and roasted peppers. It is served in a trendy black receptacle that looks a bit like a square frying pan, which is off-putting as I tend to think food tastes better when it is eaten off a white surface. Luckily, though, the moussaka is exactly as it should be, crockery notwithstanding: hearty, full of flavour and frankly delicious. My companion, who goes for the salmon with tender stem broccoli, is equally delighted. Again, the joy of both dishes is the quality of the ingredients and the perfect simplicity of their combination.
Finally, we get onto pudding. I choose the warm date and walnut cake which is really a sticky toffee pudding. It comes with stem ginger ice cream and is to die for. I eat mine in about two minutes flat and move onto the chocolate and thyme ganache, which my companion is eating far too slowly. Also heaven.
The food at The Trafalgar Dining Room is excellent and the location is matchless; the service though needs serious improvement. It’s new on the scene so perhaps the staff just needs some time to warm up. If they do, I’ll be back in a flash.