I’ve found a stylish, buzzy, reasonably priced restaurant overlooking London’s Hyde Park, where you can have a lovely dinner for about £50 for two, without wine. Island Grill is part of the Lancaster London hotel, above Lancaster gate tube station (Central line), so very convenient for transport. On the Tuesday night I went, at 7pm it was busy with co-workers, couples, groups and some business travellers dining alone – and I had been worried it would be Siberia (although I am told it is busy every night and is often too full to book). I’ll fess up early though – it isn’t exactly “views of Hyde Park”. It’s more “views of a busy road, the other side of which is a high brick wall, the other side of which is part of Hyde Park where various buildings are, including the Marlborough Toilets”. Fussy, aren’t I? But if you cast your eyes upwards a bit, there are indeed trees and greenery. The 18-floor Lancaster London hotel (above) probably has better views, to be fair (it’s one of the “tallest and most notable buildings in the vicinity”).
It’s a warm, split-level space with floor-to-ceiling windows and red/dark wood decor, and very flattering lighting (by which I don’t mean gloomy but lovely little halogen spots, I think). Incidentally I LOVED the fact that it wasn’t cold – SOO important for women. The menu is modern European with some “businessman’s choices” i.e. fish and chips and a burger.
But I went a little more classy. I started with Pan Fried Seared Scallops with Black Pudding and Pea Sprout Salad (£8.50) – the black pudding was mild and savoury and a slick of pea puree finished it off. Satisfying and set me up for the main course.
Husband had Lancaster London Home Smoked Salmon on Chargrilled Sourdough with Dill Shallots, Baby Capers and Horseradish Cream (£6.25) – There were two, 1cm slices of toast and I think you expect sourdough to be chunky so I would have doubled up and done one thick slice – more rustic. But he said the taste was good.
To drink with that, he had a pint of Bass. At £4.40 he declared it “a good, middle of the road, English ale”. The he perused the wine list. He dictated: “By the glass there are 3 white, 3 red, 1 sparkling and 1 rose, mainly French. By the bottle: 5 champagnes, some lesser houses and Bollinger (at £72 is it overpriced?)”. We debated this but it’s about 3 times the retail price, which is normal. He continued, “The whites are solidly French, the reds equally so with stray Spanish and an Italian slunk in. No vintages – so difficult to assess. There are the classics from good regions – Fleurie from Beaujolais, Burgundy etc. Surprisingly expensive with the top bottles in the mid £40s. They’re in keeping with the profile of the restaurant i.e. you’re not coming here expecting some big Bible of a wine list. For the casual diner, it’s fine. It’s not a destination restaurant and it’s not a destination wine list.”
So that’s what he thought (for those of you unfamiliar with my format, he reviews the booze and I do the food because I don’t drink at the moment).
Main courses: I had Whole Grilled Seabass stuffed with Lemon and Dill with Classic Ratatouille (£15.50) which was really perfectly cooked all through. Lovely flavours in the ratatouille and the fennel stuffing, which I wolfed. Husband had 10oz Sirloin Steak with Garlic Butter and one side (he chose chips) for £16.50. “Expertly grilled, standard steak”. For £2.95 we were intrigued by the Rocket and “Lord of the Hundreds” Cheese Side Salad. Delicious, salty, oily, balsamicky, rocketty – the stand-out dish of the night. The chips (£2.95) were fine, dipped in his garlic butter – but really I was too stuffed to eat them.
No pud because were were full. Overall, a pleasant surprise in a rather neglected and trafficky part of west London, but a real find if it’s on your commute home, or near your work. They even have rooms (in the hotel, obviously) if you’ve had such a good night that you need to crash out! What’s not to like?
Lancaster London, Lancaster Terrace, London W2 2TY. Reservations 020 7262 6737