As you step out of Lancaster Gate tube station, you could be forgiven for walking past the Island Restaurant, not because it’s an unassuming place, but more because of its surprisingly close proximity to the underground. A purple glow lights up this restaurant, which is sleek enough to lure in the suited and booted after work. When we walked in, the bar was buzzing with a healthy after-work crowd, and the restaurant wasn’t short on atmosphere either.
Although the Island takes up the ground floor of the Lancaster Hotel, it’s marketed as a standalone restaurant and bar. It works for the most part, with the restaurant in possession of its own entrance, so you might never guess its partnership with the hotel. The good thing about the Island is its attitude. It’s sleek appearance could lend its staff an air of haughtines, but they were quite the opposite: efficient and charming, albeit busy.
If you should choose to whet your appetite at the bar, you could start things off with a very decent Lychee Collins and then head on to your table. The menu, created by head chef Jean-ClaudeVydelingum, encompasses modern European cuisine. There are no culinary surprises, but some very well accomplished classic dishes. Roasted vine tomato soup and tuna carpaccio were amongst the starters, but we had decided to allow room for that all-important last course, so tucked straight into dishes of steamed bream fillet, and best end of lamb. At £21.50, you would expect the lamb to measure up to the price tag, and wonderfully, it did. Besides the deft presentation, the lamb was beautifully, beautifully succulent and sat on top of some Moroccan-inspired couscous, with some cucumber yoghurt cutting through the sweet richness of the accompanying apricots and spiced aubergine. The bream looked quite the healthy part meanwhile, and came with a teasing helping of brown shrimp risotto.
We had held out for pudding, and decided on the pineapple tatin and a reliable mix of sorbet and fruit salad. The fruit salad looked far too healthy on arrival, but refreshing with its scoops of sorbet, whilst the pineapple tatin combined sweetness and sharpness deliciously. It won again on the presentation front, with a dried sliver of pineapple making my mouth salivate with its lovely tart tang. The only drawback was the pastry, which tasted good but was stubbornly determined to stay in one piece, announcing just that with a clang, every time my fork tried to prise away a mouthful. It was worth wrestling with though, just to get at the caramelised slices of golden pineapple.
With so many restaurants hell bent on presentation, but falling short when it comes to the food, the Island wins big brownie points. Whilst the restaurant definitely wins on the looks front, it also manages to serve up food that will have you returning, expectantly, for more.
A meal for two with wine will set you back around £95.00.
The Island: Lancaster Terrace, London, W2 2TY. Tel: 020 7551 6070.
Reviewer: Helenka Bednar