Eat - Restaurant Reviews
London hotels and the name Shrager (forgive the phonetics) usually mean impossibly upscale, celebrity drenched ultra-designer hipster hotels. But not this evening. For Mrs Buglione and I are in swanky Mayfair in the Grill Room of deluxe 4-star hotel Flemings, where celebrated TV chef Rosemary Shrager has sprinkled some exclusive fairy dust over the classic British grill room classic menu.
Flemings is a classic example of London’s elegantly secret hotels and it is my first time ever through its ornate doors. To enter the Grill Room itself is to step into an intimate, stylish dark, rich chocolate box of a dining room, all dark chocolate shades, plush upholstered banquettes with 1930s art-deco trimmings and a hint of 70s kitsch. And all because the lady loves… less Milk Tray and more L’Artisan de Chocolate. I like it, and anyone who can make a swirly carpet work this well deserves interior design credit.
I make these observations while kicking the evening off with a Violet Moon cocktail – a sultry creation borne of vodka, cassis, crème de violet and champagne alongside comforting canapes of fish goujons, spring rolls, smoked salmon and mini toasts.
And call me old fashioned, but after a spate of eating out in indulgently hip new-wave ‘street-food’ places, its is nice to go somewhere ‘grown up’ with a degree of restraint… where you can have a conversation without needing a walkie talkie or a loud hailer… or a beard, day-glo fixie, painfully skinny jeans and wall to wall body art.
While I muse this, Mrs B has lost herself in the extensive wine list – a financially non-invasive, nicely explained fusion of old world and new world vintages with wines by the glass, bottle or half bottle. She emerges ordering two glasses of chilled Chenin Blanc Stormy Cape, South Africa 2013 (£6.50/glass) and a half bottle of Podere Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2012 (£16). Job done.
The Grill Room menu is a collection of reassuringly classic grill dishes, with steaks the centrepiece. We naturally graduate to the ‘By Rosemary Shrager’ sub-menu – a small but enticing slice of grill influenced dishes. It’s a hot Rio-style evening, so the fresh citrus notes and dry summer zing of the Chenin Blanc is almost as refreshing as my starter of chilled Asparagus Veloute with shallots and hot smoked salmon (£9.50). Creamy densely rich veloute with beautifully freshly smoked meaty salmon and a wakeup call for my summer in the city blunted taste buds. Mrs B, forced to duffer my homemade attempts at terrines and failed experiments with gelatin, chose the ever more successful Guinea Fowl Terrine with butter bean puree and apples (£12.50). Rich gamey bird with a sparky apple partner.
Hoggett is an interesting choice for a lamb dish – older than lamb, younger than mutton. It divides opinion but when delivered correctly combines the deep flavours of mutton and the freshness of lamb, with a robustness somewhere in between. Best of both worlds or caught between two stools goes the debate. Tonight I am in the yes camp. My Hogget with fennel, saffron, fondant and lamb jus (£21), with just the right hint of ‘fattiness’ is beautifully rendered, substantial without overdoing it with interesting side touches, particularly the fennel – an ingredient criminally underused in the Buglione kitchen. The finely textured, light, slightly plummy Montepulciano is a perfect bedfellow.
Mrs B’s Lemon Sole with lobster glace and artichoke puree (£25) reveals perfectly grilled sole, still moist and flaky with a lovely dense ‘eggplant’ whip. The glace a flirty hint of lobster. What’s not to like? Give me a dining room where I can satisfy both quantity and quality criteria and you have one, in this case, two, cosily contented diners.
As we share a deep, almost too rich, dense, Crème Brulee, Mrs B remarks that I am in the position of many food reviewers who are tempted to keep London’s dining secrets to themselves. Not everyone knows about Flemings and its Grill Room, so I am temporarily tempted to help keep schtum. Just to show the world that you can live in this exciting dining metropolis for all one’s (40) years and still find undiscovered gems like this, go, enjoy, but don’t tell everyone.
Written by Nick Buglione: Blue Tomato Reviews - Best For London Restaurant Reviews