Quaglino’s Restaurant and Bar, SW1

Features director Andrea Thompson visits the old-school Mayfair eatery...

Quaglino’s was THE restaurant to be seen at in the 90s, when pictures of celebrities spilling out of its doors were splashed across tabloid diary pages each day. It might not hold the title of the coolest restaurant in town anymore, but you’d be hard pushed to find somewhere in central London that offers the quality dining experience of Quaglino’s coupled with its great buzz at such affordable prices.
 
Essentially Quaglino’s is an upmarket brasserie but it’s most famous for its selection of fish and seafood dishes and legendary champagne bar. The restaurant turns 21 this year and is celebrating with the launch of a new rainbow Bellini Bar serving 21 exotic varieties of the cocktail. We opted for the decadent Lychee Bellini and a lighter Basil & Mandarin. Each arrived beautifully garnished with fruit and a complimentary champagne Bellini flavoured meringue on the side delivered by a waitress dressed like a traditional ‘cigarette-girl’ with a black tray.
 
Making our way down the grand central staircase from bar to restaurant, the live jazz band was already in full swing by 7.30pm and the party atmosphere was warming up nicely. The menu is diverse with a focus on fish but plenty of grills to satisfy meat eaters. I’d recommend the Scottish Langoustines to start served in the shell with a rich home made mayonnaise. If you fancy a little more variety the famous Quaglino’s cocktail is a meal in itself; a colourful array of fresh crayfish, shrimp and king prawn on a bed of ice and lettuce. Yes it’s a bit retro but so fresh and generous for the price (£14 and easily enough for two).

We followed up with the chef’s special – the flakey roasted cod with a slightly crispy skin balanced perfectly with a full bodied beetroot caper and dill sauce accompanied with a rich buttery mash. My more carnivorous guest raved about the tenderness of the Steak au poivre with its ‘faultless’ peppercorn sauce.
This is not ground-breakingly experimental food, but it is great quality fare, perfectly executed and presented – right down to the elegant side dishes such as the honey glazed roasted root vegetables and Sicilian tomato and red onion salad.
 
With an old school menu of crowd pleasing deserts including Pavlova, Tiramisu, Crème Brule and Black Forest desert, it did feel like stepping back in time. But whose complaining; Quaglino’s is clearly sticking to a formula that works and when it tastes this good who cares about being cutting edge.

In case you’re wondering, we opted to share the Brule accompanied by a crumbly home-made almond biscuit and a glass of the Muscat de Rivesaltes Domaine Cazes 2009, a French desert wine – a snip at £5 a glass.

In terms of space, atmosphere and vibe, I can’t think of a more fun place in London to come for a celebratory night out with a group of friends – or a laid back date for that matter. The food is good, the service flawless yet unstuffy, Lucas the sommelier is a dream, and the live music is the icing on the cake.
 
Quaglino’s, 16 Bury Street, London SW1Y 6AJ, 020 7930 6767
 
Prices  £35 to £45 per head for three courses without wine. 

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