Right, first up, this is not a cheap restaurant – but perfect for a celebration, anniversary or special meal (£56 for whole grilled lobster ain’t budget food!). But it’s a stunning gem in the middle of London, very handy for theatreland. The Waldorf Hilton on Aldwych isn’t your typical businessman’s Hilton but one of their Luxury and Lifestyle hotels, so it’s full-on glitz and “historic splendour” as the website says. I ate in the Homage Grand salon restaurant, decked out in white, gold-cast Ionic pillars (I couldn’t decide if the pattern on them was corn-on-the-cobs or pigs’ faces, but my husband said they were “tulips, of course”). Anyway the room is very impressive, updated with lots of (smoked?) glass and fabulous lighting.
We kicked off with cocktails from the head barman, Nelson. I had the (non-alcoholic) Ramirez Tea – fruit tea and mandarin, agave syrup, lime juice and OJ in a pewter (?) cup and saucer. The taste was delicious and fruity but I prefer my cocktails in a glass – although I undertand why they served it as they did. Husband had a Perfect Host including Bacardi, apple juice, egg white, celery and basil, which he pronounced unusual but scrummy.
The charming, friendly and completely professional restaurant manager Thibault Matherat brought amuse bouches, which were a goats cheese, basil and sun dried tomato mini-brochette (excellent) and 3 small whitebait with lemon and mayo (aioli?) – delicious.
The Executive Chef Johan Rox (good name) came out to introduce himself – he is from Holland. He explained how one of their suppliers (in Wales) lets them know each week what’s good, and what veg they’re foraging from the countryside (I love this idea, as a keen forager myself). He recommended various dishes and then we got on with the business of eating. My starter was Foie Gras terrine with pineapple and ginger salsa served with brioche (£19.00). They did me a perfectly-judged little salad with grapes and pumpkin seeds instead of the brioche. The salsa was exceptional with just the right amount of ginger (fresh, not candied, as I had expected) to cut through the richness of the meat.
Husband had Pan fried scallops with fried vermicelli, asparagus, mange tout salad and peas puree (£18.00) which he wolfed down. With this he had a glass of 2010 Pouilly Fuisse, which he initially described as, “entry level, young, quite tart” but after a while he retracted that and said, “It took a while to open up, but is really very pleasant”.
Speaking of the wines, there is an extensive list of reds and whites by the glass, which is good. But Peter declared, “It’s a pub wine list,” partly because the vintages are not listed (they change so often), the top prices are only around £55/bottle and there is not a great variety. However Thibault has finally persuaded Hilton to let him select certain, more expensive wines, so there is a second list, of more special fine wines, up to around the £100 mark, with brief descriptions. Waiters always let customers know the year, when they order. So, Peter’s fears about the wines were allayed.
My main course was Tempura of Baby vegetables with Chilly and saffron sauce (£16.00) which came in its own cute little frying basket. It was an odd main course but I liked it, and ate with my fingers – always good. I suspect the chilli sauce was bought in, but I may be wrong.
Best end of organic salt marsh lamb with minted quinoa, samphire and herb butter (£32.00) went well with a glass of 2009 Chateauneuf de Pape (although Thibault kindly brought my husband two different reds, to see which he preferred).
We shared a Selection of French, British, Italian and Spanish cheeses with Pecan Bread and Dried Fruits (£14.00) the star of which was the French Comte (again they brought me a little salad instead of the bread/crackers). And then Peter went for a Strawberry sable (sort of a biscuit) with pistachio ice cream (£8.00) which he thought was actually vanilla ice cream rolled in finely chipped pistachios. Nevertheless it was fabulous.
I asked for a fruit plate, which was sweet and cleansing, although didn’t come with crushed ice (hey, it only melts, right?) and made a perfect end to the dinner. Overall, I would say that, if you are in this area, after work or pre-theatre, or you just want somewhere fabulous and central that you could take your mum, kids, work colleagues and love interest (although perhaps not all at the same meal) then this is the ideal spot for a really special meal in genuinely stunning surroundings. The bar area was packed when we arrived at 7pm too, so its popular. It’s recently been done out in a high-class 1920s style, which produces a lovely effect, and makes a great place for an assignation.
Reviewed in 2012