After an unspeakable dinner that gave him food poisoning, William Sitwell is on fine scoffing form once more, reviewing Angler in Moorgate, 34, Plum and Spilt Milk and Belgraves
It was a foul dinner in a restaurant that shames the culinary name of Britain, but for a couple of reasons I can’t write about it yet. I was even ill after the event and have subsequently missed several weeks of scoffing. I had to go to Sardinia to recover but am now returned; taste buds tuned, fingers racing across the keyboard.
Mind you, my return to the metropolis was seriously challenged this week when I filmed Masterchef: The Professionals. I encountered one of the boldest flavour and texture combinations I have ever come across…still, you’ll have to wait ‘til the autumn to find out about that.
Angler, South Place Hotel
London does seem to have a bustling newness about it right now. I dined at Angler on the 7th floor of the chic South Place Hotel near Moorgate, a brilliant fish restaurant in a beautiful light and airy room with a nifty terrace for these summer nights.
Service is keen, diligent and swift and the menu lovely to look at. I like the colour of pale blue as much as I favour little icons of fish and top hats. Bring them together and the eye is happy.
Keen to scoff as much crustacea as possible we ate the shellfish platter, which included soft and rich oysters, as well as a dressed crab – flecked with chopped salad leaves to lighten it a little and some langoustines. The latter sat proudly round the top, circling a lemon. It reminded me of the smart fountains you see outside houses like Castle Howard. To me it nodded to the architectural designs of Marie-Antoine Careme – that famous 19th century patissier – and an early genius of haute cuisine.
We deconstructed the elegant ramparts and gobbled up most of the edifice leaving a pile of shells and ice. A glorious destruction.
Next up was a plate of ravioli. I wanted to see if they could do pasta, and they can. Soft, fresh with a little give but not too springy, this was a roundel of pasta stuffed with the sort of things we ate for our first course.
It came on a lovely bed of chopped up things, which added some crunch – fennel and co. But it was too buttery, far too buttery. Our mouths swirled with unnecessary, oily butteriness.
But after a breather on the terrace, we were ready for the main course. A bowl of grilled fish alongside perfect chips and a little cup of béarnaise sauce.
These guys know how to cook fish. There was salmon with a crunchy top and tender as tender can be flesh, big scallops, also cooked to perfection, and some chunky mackerel.
If you want a smart city place for fish, let this be your top choice. You won’t be disappointed. And the sommelier won’t let you down either. He led us down a path of discovery that included an unusual Muscadet (Jo Landron), a Gruner Veltliner favourite (Stift Goettweig 2010) and an astonishing Spanish wine called Ailala Treixadura from 2011. It had such fruit, was so rounded, so tasty, so easy to drink that I have subsequently hunted it down and, having found a supplier in Scotland, ordered a case.
So make sure you get Benoit Allauzen’s full attention. The sleeves on his suit might not match the rest of the cloth but his palate and wine knowledge are far better co-ordinated.
Plum and Spilt Milk, The Great Northern Hotel
As there was no room at the inn that night I cycled up to St Pancras and bagged a bed at The Great Northern Hotel. It’s small, swanky, chic, neat and tidy and has the sexiest little bar attached to its restaurant called Plum and Spilt Milk. I’m sure there’s a joke about boutique hotels, plums and spilt milk, but I’m too diverted by the elegance of the dining room, and the Victorian builder Lewis Cubitt’s façade.
You used to have to share bathrooms in this place, but — the man at the desk proudly explained — you no longer have to. Which was a relief. He also explained with great clarity that the in-room movies are all included in the rack rate.
Again, a relief. So embarrassing isn’t it having to explain away why you watched about four and a half minutes of six different movies?
I simply slept, and slept well (although I’d have slept better if I was allowed to open a window) and in huge comfort before a tasty breakfast in their beautiful dining room with its long-hanging hand-blown light bulbs and railway feel.
Next up was lunch at 34, which I’ve reviewed before. This is that smart steak place in Mayfair, part of the Caprice Holdings group, and which has a wonderful collection of beef and a vast bespoke charcoal grill. I feel for the man who each morning has to climb inside to clean it. But whatever it takes it’s worth it.
Wanting to share slices of steak I negotiated with the waiter. I didn't want chateaubriand, and a little steak frites number wouldn't quite deliver the chunky steak charcoal grill effect I was looking for. Medium-rare please and a glass of champagne for my friend continued the request.
This must have been too much for our waiter as another then returned to finish the negotiation. So we went through our request all over again and got a bespoke sliced up rib-eye that was just right.
But the champagne never came. Which, who knows, could have tempted me to a drink, and then, who knows, we might have settled in and gone mad with the wine list and the restaurant might have made a killing. And I wasn't paying and no, it wasn’t a freebie.
William Sitwell with Sophie Michell at Belgraves
But there was a fair amount of drink taken later at Sophie Michell’s new restaurant in Belgravia.
Sophie, who labored when young in restaurants across Europe before cooking privately, is now at the helm of the stove at the Belgraves Hotel on Chesham Place.
She cooked for a dinner in the private room, a gathering invited to a summer party at the invitation of Spear’s top dog William Cash. We sipped sparkling Nyetimber wine and lashings of Macon Lugny before feasting on Sophie’s fresh British produce-inspired grub. There was quite thickly cut carpaccio (ok, not so British but others hailed the poach sea trout) and a juicy rump of lamb. A crowd-pleasing chocolate and sea salt caramel tart was met with rapture, or was that simply the response to my speech? I can’t quite recall.
If you’re looking for a cool place to hang and you’re not in the right part of town to squeeze your plums and spill your milk, head for Belgraves. Who knows, with Sophie at the helm they might even think of a decent name for the place.