Trips down to London have been sadly infrequent recently. One of the good bits about a visit southward is the chance to seek out a relatively bargainous lunch at one of the zillion or so top-flight restaurants that litter the place. Newcastle is not bad for eating out, with a few genuinely excellent restaurants and eateries, but with food as most other things, Londoners are farcically spoiled. Not for us are the multi-course extravaganzas of matched-wine tasting menus (we need the train fare home...), but, especially at lunchtime, it's very possible to eat some amazing stuff without incurring a bill that runs into hundreds of pounds. On previous sorties south we've been to Texture, Pied a Terre and Arbutus, all of which were great in different ways. This time out, I had seen some good reviews of Alyn Williams' newish restaurant in the Mayfair-situated Westbury Hotel, so off we schlepped to check it out.
After wandering through streets of bewilderingly expensive looking shops for designer labels I'd scarcely even heard of, we found the Westbury. The two blokes in top hats loitering outside were a dead giveaway. The restaurant itself is just inside the hotel entrance. Although the room is nice, and plush enough, it does feel like a large room in a hotel rather than a custom-designed space. The sparkly carpet is a bit odd, but fine if you're into that kind of thing. The seats were super-comfy, which is probably more important. There's a huge glass wine cabinet that seems to take up about a third of the restaurant, with a private dining table actually inside it! There are some fairly extraordinarily-priced bottles in there including a gold-plated bottle of vintage Dom Perignon Rose, yours for £35,000. I assume they let you keep the bottle?! Maybe next time.
Cheese gougeres were swiftly delivered to the table, and just about as swiftly despatched (hence no pic); pleasantly light but with a good cheesy - Fourme d'Ambert I think - tang. I always like to see what upper-end restaurants are doing in the bread and butter department, and here it was pretty damn great.
|Excellent house bread|
We both went for the three course set lunch menu which offered two choices per course. First up for both of us were Oxtail faggots.
|Oxtail faggots, celeriac, winter vegetables, beef stock|
Next up for me was Hake cooked in red wine, while Kasia went for the Duck option.
|Hake, red wine, smoked eel, Alexander|
|Glazed Duck, pickled Judas ear, quinoa, wild garlic|
An unadvertised pre-dessert of cheesecake, mandarin granita and honeycomb was bloody lovely, a great example of how three simple things that all pull in slightly different directions can add up to far more than the sum of their sugary parts. In different circumstances I could have done 7 or 8 of these no problem.
|Bread and butter pudding, candied fruit ice cream|
|Roasted white chocolate, passion fruit, saffron|
We had lingered long enough over all this to rule out there being any time for coffee or tea, but we were given some chocolates with the bill which were lovely; a very good salted caramel and incredibly coffee-ish coffee and Pedro Ximinez truffle.
Service was attentive and for the most part very friendly, with only the occasional slip into the kind of michelin-starred unsmiling seriousness that I can probably do without but maybe others want when they visit places like this. Further bread was swiftly offered once we devoured the initial basket. One of the waiters had just about the broadest cockney accent I've ever heard which for some reason seemed a bit funny in the hushed environs, but he was probably also the cheeriest of the front of house staff.
Including service, two rather nice glasses of Pol Roger (well, we don't get to do this often...), a further glass of Malbec for her and very nice American Merlot for me this all came to just over £100. Definitely not cheap, but I'd say very good value. If you just drank water you could have a really great lunch here for just over £50 for two, which is pretty amazing considering where this place is and the standard of the cooking. For comparison, the set lunch at the two Michelin-star The Square, which is just round the corner is a tenner more at £35, and while the tasting menu at Alyn Williams comes in at £60, The Square's costs £105. Without wanting to bang on about the price of things constantly, it's also worth pointing out that you can get a glass of wine here for the not-too eye watering price of £6, and that if you want a bottle you've got lots of choice at around £30-35. Not cheap, but not insane.
If you're after some top-flight cooking in Mayfair at a very reasonable price, this is a great place to go. We're off to save up for the tasting menu...
Alyn Williams at the Westbury Website