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Clifford Mould revisits one of his favourite restaurants

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Early last March I had lunch at Bulloch's at 116, and I promised myself to return to see this lovely dining room at night. The cooking and service were spot on again. But that isn't surprising, for this is a place where dedicated professionalism in all departments is the order of the day.

There are many who think that London's smaller grand hotels not only offer the best value for money, but have a certain style and comfort that comes from the rather more personal attention that is harder to achieve on a very much larger scale. One thinks of Brown's, the Capital - and theAthenaeum at the Hyde Park Corner end of Piccadilly. What a position - Green Park in front, Knightsbridge to the right, Mayfair behind you, St James's nearly opposite - what more could a visitor to the capital wish for?

One of the best kept secrets in London is the restaurant, named after the Hotel's ebullient and irrepressible manager, Sally Bulloch, though why anyone would ever want to repress her, I cannot imagine. The dining room is very pretty, with lighting of a Mediterranean intensity by day, while in the evening, oil lamps and subtle spotlighting create an atmosphere of lively intimacy that one rarely finds in an hotel restaurant.

The good news is that Starters are still 6.95, except for one luxury item, currently langoustines, which now come steamed with an asparagus and tarragon butter sauce for 8.95. All the starters I described in my earlier review have changed long ago, I suspect. This time I had a very good fresh crab and aubergine gateau The aubergines were miraculously non oily, and they were flavoured strongly with basil. A salad of strips of spicy beef, air dried tomatoes and rocket leaves was enjoyed by one of our friends who noted how good the tomatoes were and how they successfully complemented the piquancy of the beef. Seared scallops, that current favourite, had a good seafresh flavour and the chilli sauce lent interest without being too overpowering. Best of all was a lobster risotto with some lovely chive cream sauce cleverly arranged in a Parmesan basket - an exquisite dish, and with generous pieces of recognisable lobster.

Main courses are 15.95 each, two dishes only attracting a modest two pound supplement: Dover Sole with Bearnaise Sauce and Fillet of lamb Provençla;al. There are always two or three plats du jour. When I got home and looked out last March's menu, I noticed that again, practically all the main dishes had changed.

One of the special dishes of the day last spring was roast guinea fowl on bed of spinach with a topping of foie gras. The bird had lots of flavour, the sauce was excellent, derived from the foie gras which was generous and melted in the mouth. This now appears in a different guise on the main menu as grilled guinea fowl with goose liver and Madeira Sauce. It's even better gilled, the skin is like crispy duck, the foie gras just as tender and the sauce incredibly dark and rich.

In March I noticed that the fishy trio of grilled scallops, seabass and salmon with Asian greens looked marvellous on its way to another table - this time it came to ours. My friend said the fish was nicely cooked, but it seemed as though the greens had not been strained off properly, so the fishy pieces were sitting in a watery broth. If this was intentional, then perhaps the broth needs a few more hairs on its chest! Grilled Dover sole is a classic dish which was done well, but the Bearnaise sauce was missing. It arrived quickly after it was summoned, but I noticed the same mistake repeated at the next table, an odd solecism in what was otherwise excellent service. I did later discover that we had chanced upon head chef David Marshall's well earned night off! But the grilled calves' liver was very tender, artfully arranged with braised endive and a well smashed potato mash. Additional vegetables cost 1.75, and all we needed was to share a couple of portions between the four of us.

Desserts still cost 4.50, and the choice is good. We shared an apple tarte tatin - oozing with delicious substance, freshened with a tangy Calvados sorbet - and the incredibly rich but light textured date and toffee pudding with creme fraiche. We drank some very nice Sauvignon Blanc from the Cote de Duras for 14.75 a bottle (or 3.75 by the glass), and also a vigorous but drinkable young claret, Chateau Combes des Dames 1995 for 17.95. The wine list is very user-friendly, with helpful notes about matching food and wine. Service is very professional by equally charming French waiters - under the eye of a very debonair young English restaurant manager. Despite the two small hiccups, we found the whole experience of dining at Bulloch's a tremendous pleasure - we hope you will too!

Bullochs at 116 Tel: 020 7499 3464 Fax: 020 7493 1860
Open for Lunch: Monday - Friday 12.30 - 2.30pm (Closed Saturday & Sunday
Open for Dinner: Monday - Saturday 6.00 - 10.30pm, Sunday 7.00 -10.00pm

NB: All prices are shown in pounds sterling

Clifford Mould's earlier review, March 1997

UK Restaurant Reviews – The Best Of The Dine Online Restaurant Reviews 2001 - 2010

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