Bury St


The discreet glass-front of Quaglino’s on Bury Street certainly gives nothing away about the grand and glitzy restaurant that beckons you underground. A sweeping marble staircase leads down to a 400-seater hall, where a fluorescent blue roof structure leads your eyes to a crustacean altar, showcasing the elements of the house speciality: plateaux de fruits de mer. A combination of the lighting, swirly coloured columns, tall mirrors and black dated chairs evokes the image of a luxury cruise ship during the 1990s, or as my friend puts it “a faded beauty queen” – in a charming and humorous way of course - after all Quaglino’s was a 1930’s icon which Terence Conran re-launched in 1991. The diners are a mixed bunch, but all seem to be unified by evening dress and the notion of a ‘special’ night out. Before we take to our seats, we sip uplifting raspberry bellinis in the bar upstairs, which feels a tad more updated with dark walls and trendy lighting patterns on the wall. When we finally walk down the grandiose staircase to our table, I get a small flashback to a scene in Titanic – it’s a strangely pleasant feeling. The menu is indicative of a French brasserie, covering classics such as salad niçoise, prawn cocktail and Chateaubriand. We decide to go against the grain and order less retro conventional starters of watermelon and feta salad with saffron dressing and proscuitto with melon and red-wine jelly, but neither quite live up to their description. The saffron dressing is heavy on mustard, the feta cheese doesn't make an impact and the red-wine jelly doesn't taste like red wine or wobble like a jelly. I guess that teaches us for not sticking to the classics. For our main course there is a whole sea bass stuffed with spinach and olives with a side of crunchy fennel salad - an uncomplicated and deeply satisfying dish. A plate of sweet and silky calves liver with pommes purée is justly offset by the presence of sage, and melts in the mouth so willingly, I find my head tilting to the side and letting out a sigh. We finish off the meal with a retro peach melba and an extra creative medley of creamy panna cotta, tart poached rhubarb, yogurt ice cream and a ginger tuile. After discovering that a little bit of everything in the mouth caused a surprising fiesta of textures and flavours to kick off, our spoons dive in and out of the dish and within seconds it is finished. Regardless of the old-style glitz and glamour, the atmosphere remains relaxed and the staff glide between the tables discreetly. Quaglino’s is certainly a remarkable venue and as long as you stick to the classics, it makes an ideal choice for a special evening out. A three-course meal for two without wine will set you back £60-£70. There is a set three course dinner menu available for £19.50 per head. **Reviewer:** Leila Sarraf