Alyn Williams at the Westbury hotel isn’t exactly the most hip and happening place in London right now, I mean God, you can make a reservation, and there’s no queue to get in the door and the chairs are comfy! But in a city filled with burgers and pop ups, this restaurant is exactly what I want – it’s Michelin starred fine dining at it’s very best.
The room is opulent and rather glamorous, there’s even a sparkly carpet which I imagine wouldn’t be to everyone’s taste. At 1pm there was only us and another table having lunch – with the lack of background music the atmosphere was a little flat, however by 2pm the restaurant had filled up and was more lively.
The focal point of the dining room is a large glass cellar displaying some rather lovely (and expensive I imagine) wines and champagnes. You can dine in the cellar, where a tasting menu is available but you order the wine first and then the food is chosen to match your tipple – a very unusual (and slightly costly) concept never the less.
Some little warm cheesy choux pastry balls were served whilst we were looking at the menus on offer. A 7 course tasting menu was available at £60 and we were very tempted but we opted for the extremely reasonable sounding set lunch priced at £25 for three courses.
We were then served some attractive looking bread, the mini Guinness loaf was divine as was the sliced potato sourdough but the thin crisp bread smothered in olive oil and sprinkled generously with salt was my favourite – they were seriously addictive. Whipped caraway and unsalted butters were served and both went down very well.
My starter of grilled duck hearts, fennel stick, borscht and sour cream was exquisite. The borscht (a Ukranian beetroot soup) was a vibrant purple and was so rich and creamy – it had taken the taste of beetroot to a new level. I was simply amazed how tasty it was. The skewered duck hearts were cooked to perfection. The tangy sour cream cut through the rich sweet beetroot soup perfectly – this was a really impressive dish.
My gentleman companion’s cuttlefish, squash, wild marjoram and ink mayonnaise was equally delicious. The cuttlefish was beautifully cooked – retaining its delicate flavour and none of the other ingredients overpowered it one bit. It was visually stunning and matched in flavour.
My main of haddock, red wine, parsnip, smoked onion and liquorice didn’t disappoint. The red wine sauce was rich and sweet, the haddock; flakey and moist, the parsnip purée was light and velvety however I couldn’t detect any liquorice but I didn’t care as this dish was so incredibly tasty.
My gentleman companion loved his wood pigeon, hazelnut gnocchi and Jerusalem artichoke. The nutty gnocchi were light as air and the gamey pigeon breasts were pink and tender making them a pleasure to eat. The food that Alyn had cooked so far not only looked beautiful but had serious oomph of flavour – we were loving our lunch.
We decided to share the two desserts on offer and we were very kindly brought our own individual mini sized portions of each so we didn’t have to fight over who had the last spoonful. The chestnut Mont Blanc, orange flapjack and mulled wine slightly resembled the appearance of a brain – but looked lovely none the less. The crispy flapjacks added texture and the fruity mulled wine contrasted the creamy chestnut rather well.
The bitter chocolate tart with caramel and peanuts was our favourite – it was truly wonderful. It was everything you could possibly want from a chocolate tart (and then some) – rich yet totally light as air and not at all sickly.
Whilst we calmed down from our chocolate tart induced fluster we were invited to go into the kitchen to meet Alyn Williams himself. Hoorah – we love having a look in the kitchen! And to meet the actual chef who owns the restaurant is always such a great experience – and what a lovely bloke he is too.
Service throughout our lunch was beyond faultless. No members of staff had an ounce of stuffiness between them. They were chatty and friendly which, combined with that wonderful food, made for an absolutely unforgettable lunch. We can’t wait to go back and try the tasting menu.