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Embassy, London W1

Just the swanky kind of Mayfair joint our Louise Elgin likes!

Last night I re-visited the prestigious Embassy London Restaurant. This was only the second time I'd dined there since it first opened its doors in November 2001. Set in the heart of Mayfair, this slick establishment incorporates all the necessary aspects for a superb evening's entertainment. Set over two floors, it's an ideal venue to spend the whole evening, commencing with a cocktail or two in the sophisticated bar, before enjoying fine dining in the stylish restaurant, and finally descending for a groove in the exclusive nightclub, once the site of the notorious Legends discotheque. The dining room's chic stone and beige interior is designed with a contemporary, minimalist feel that was perhaps a little on the impersonal side for my taste, but the restaurant tables are well spaced with comfortable suede covered chairs and screens separating the bar area.

When we arrived at 7pm the place was like a morgue, but as the evening progressed, the restaurant and bar became very busy, so clearly this is not an early diners' place. This in no way diminished our expectations, as the chef is Gary Hollihead, who has cooked in some of London's top destinations, notching up Michelin stars on the way. 

There were nine starters to chose between, all of them sounding tempting. I began with timbale of white crab meat served with a gaspacho sauce. It was served artistically and topped with fine ribbons of sweet pickled cucumber, the crab laden with fresh herbs in every bite. My guest's sautéed sea scallops and asparagus spears came served in an attractive fan arrangement. She said they were melt in the mouth tender with the perfect al dente bite. Her only criticism was that the sauternes sauce that accompanied it was too rich and buttery for her palate. We ate this with some wonderful olive and thyme bread whilst drinking glasses of Italian Pinot Grigio. This was dry, with a pleasant hint of necessary sharpness. I was a little disappointed that there was only a choice of three whites and two red wines by the glass, my guest having tried a glass of the Grenache/Sauvignon before I arrived and not rated it very highly. This just left us a Californian chardonnay as the third selection, which can be a rather overpowering when paired with certain delicate flavours.

There was a choice of ten main courses, again, many of them tempting. There was a robust sounding belly of pork with glazed carrots and parsley mash, a rump of lamb, with boulangère potato, again served with parsley mash, and a fresh pea and summer truffle risotto. I had the lobster with Miso broth. This was served in a deep plate, the Miso sauce poured over the fish that was covered in a julienne of carrot, asparagus, Thai shallots, mooli and spring onions. There was a very generous helping of the quite firm lobster meat, the al dente vegetables combining well with the tasty Miso broth. I accompanied this with a glass of Forestville Californian chardonnay. It had a floral, lily of the valley nose and proved a good match for the lobster.

My guest had the steamed fillet of hake, sautéed chorizo sausage and clams. It was again served in a soup dish, the sauce poured at the table so it resembled a bouillabaisse. It came served with new potatoes, red pepper, spinach and clams adding even more substance. She said it was first class, the wonderful flavours hitting the spot with her taste buds. There were only two red wines by the glass, a 2002 Grenache/Syrah and a Chilean Merlot, 2002 Tierra Alta, Maule Valley. She selected the merlot and highly praised it. It had a deep blackcurrant colour, with a rich nose and soft velvety taste.

I am pleased to report that after two courses we were happy to continue onto a third, due to the lightness and freshness of the cooking. My guest had a bitter chocolate tart with honey and lavender ice cream. This was solid and very chocolaty, far too big a portion, and extremely rich, but very good nevertheless. She loved the ice cream that accompanied it, saying the honey and lavender taste really came through. I had a hot raspberry soufflé that was cooked to order, and came served, contrastingly, with some very good rich and creamy lemongrass ice cream.

Being a couple of lightweights, we didn't hit the dance floor, but had a good snoop about, checking out the nightclub. A big party were due to arrive and it looked like fun. The club is an exclusive, member's only establishment and the prices reflect that. However, it is sometimes possible for non-members to gain entry to the club by telephoning first, or by dining beforehand in the restaurant. I've made a mental note that if I'm looking for a sophisticated venue in the centre of town to drink, eat and dance, I shall head to Embassy London and get down and boogie with the best of them.

Louise Elgin, October 2004

Embassy London: 29 Old Burlington Street, London W1S 3AN
Tel: 020 7851 0956   Open Tuesday - Saturday

Starters: £6.95-£9.50; Main courses: £15.95 - £26.95; Puddings all £7.50
House wines: £16.50; Wines by the glass: £4.50 - £6.50

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

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