Features Director Andrea Thompson checks out Fifth Floor restaurant, Harvey Nichols, Knightsbridge.
There was a time when department store restaurants were something of an afterthought; dimly lit rooms with mediocre service and average food where you grabbed a bite to eat to sustain you through a mammoth shopping trip. But today, things are very different. The main stores are ‘foodie destinations’ in themselves with up to five different offerings from Parisian brasseries to champagne and oyster bars. Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge is up there with the best. Not only does it have its own Burger & Lobster and Yo Sushi concessions but there is a fine dining restaurant known simply as The Fifth Floor, where you can get a mean 2 course express lunch for under £20 or, do as we did, and take your time over a more languid 3 course dinner from the newly revamped A la Carte dinner menu. I’d strongly recommend kicking off with champagne cocktails in the elegant circular Barbarella-esque bar. The stunning white interior with splashes of lime green and vivid pink is inspired by the iconic Perrier-Jouet Belle Époque champagne bottle designed by Émile Gallé'. It's buzzing from 6pm and the champagne and cocktail list impressively varied with tasty complimentary bar snacks from spiced nuts and olives to a charcuterie board. Dinner takes place in the light airy restaurant next door – a haven of calm with huge windows overlooking the bustle of shoppers in the street below. For starters we opted for a superbly fresh Asian-inspired Crab salad with pickled kohlrabi, cauliflower, avocado purée and peanut dressing. We also loved the juicy delicately flavoured pan fried Rye Scallops perfectly balanced with a slightly sweet butternut squash purée, a Parmesan potato gnocchi and prosciutto. Impressed with the freshness of the seasonal ingredients, we stuck with the fish theme for the main courses with an excellent cooked light tarragon and butter poached Turbot, accompanied by a rich saffron linguine, and caramelized langoustines.We also tried the flakey moist sea bass with a gorgeous braised fennel, and marinated artichoke. The cooking was uncomplicated and the presentation lovely without being over fussy. The portions were generous too and the quality of the fish wonderfully fresh. The beef we saw go out to the neighbouring table looked equally impressive and if the empty plates were anything to go by, didnt disappoint on the taste front. We opted to share the rich dark chocolate cocoa mousse which came with a caramelized banana, an experimental rosemary ganache and refreshing banana sorbet - but it (the sharing idea) was definitely a mistake. This surprisingly indulgent yet light desert is one you’ll want to order to yourself and polish off alone. At £37.50 for two courses or £45 for 3, this is great value quality dining in the center of Knightsbridge that would be good at any time, whether during a shopping trip or not. 109 - 125 Knightsbridge London, SW1X 7RJ
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