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Langtry's Restaurant, Pont Street, Chelsea 

Hotel restaurants don't bother Stephen Higginson

Perrier-Jouet Saturday Lunch

Having enjoyed our dining experience at Langtrys so much, it seemed only right to pop back and savour their tempting new concept - the Perrier Jouet Saturday lunch. 

A slightly restricted menu of five first courses, five mains and five puddings still presents plenty of choice, and in any case, the most important line on the menu says “£29.50 including endless champagne”! With the cooking as good as it is - and with such an excellent house champagne – this is a bargain.. By 2 pm there was an unmistakable buzz of success in the place, as the well spaced tables soon filled up with ladies who lunch – from 20 to 60 year olds - accompanied by partners laden with designer carrier bags from the chic local shops. 

It is good to see that wherever possible Langtry’s produce is sourced in the UK - Appleby Cheshire cheese, Morecombe Bay shrimps Somerset pork and goats cheese, Speyside Angus beef, Aberdeenshire Salmon, Lincolnshire rhubarb. – and so on. No dish hit a wrong note and the staff were, as before, personable and delightfully helpful. SH

I have noted before that we British are cautious in developing a trust for hotel restaurants. They still have something of a brown Windsor soup, chicken supreme and black forest gateau image. Yet the blossoming of the destination hotel restaurant is now becoming a significant factor in the growth of fine dining.

The celebrity chef takeover of top hotel restaurants in London such as Claridges and The Connaught set the pace, together with the reinvigoration of many provincial hotel kitchens by an influx of imaginative and ambitious chefs who found an untapped source of food-savvy customers outside the capital. The trick has been to promote the restaurant separately from the hotel. The centre of gravity has shifted, and the perception now sought is that of a first class restaurant which, almost co-incidentally, has a hotel facility adjacent, the image of which may have little to do with that of its restaurant business.

An excellent example of this phenomenon is Langtry’s - the recently revamped restaurant of the Cadogan hotel off Sloane Street, Knightsbridge, which was once the home of that favourite of Edward VII – Lillie Langtry. Oscar Wilde was a regular visitor too, and it was here that he was arrested and packed off to jail.

Being enveloped within an ornate Edwardian town house has its points, but to a younger clientele, it is a look which might well generate images of cream teas with ancient aunts during half term! But don’t be fooled – this is now the home of some top class modern cooking blended with excellent takes on classic favourites.

Last September Langtry’s was relaunched in its own right after a makeover – and here the Cadogan has stuck to its historic guns with a very restful and romantic room, full of sinuous burgundy velvet and gilt chairs, well spaced tables draped in heavy linen and subtle lighting from a mix of real and artificial candles. The night we visited was between Christmas and the New Year. Thus, expectations were not of a room buzzing with people and fizzing with the wonderfully creamy, and fittingly Art Nouveau house champagne – Perrier Jouet Grand Brut – which of course we had to sample whilst deciding on what to eat.


Yet, with only a handful of diners, the room still exuded glamour and comfort and the young restaurant supervisor Steven - late of the star studded Grove near Watford - presided with easy charm. The time of year meant a restricted menu – four starters and four mains – half the usual number, but all dishes were taken from the normal menu and were varied enough to provide an insight into the 29 year old head chef Robert Lyons’ considerable skills.

A delectable amuse bouche of ham hock in pork jelly with a hot cheese puff and pineapple crisp preceded our choices of starter - a duck leg and foie gras terrine with pear and fig chutney and delicious seedy Melba toast for me, and for my companion, Langtry's famous prawn cocktail – layered like a trifle with ample plump Morecombe bay prawns, prawn jelly, avocado mouse and Marie Rose ice cream. In both cases the flavours and textures were exquisitely balanced , and after only one course, ‘poised’ was the word which suggested itself; everything was just so well judged . Wine by the glass was our route, and Damian, the South African head waiter proved a superbly knowledgeable stand-in wine waiter, suggesting a wonderful light and spicy De Loach ‘Califorian Series’ Zinfandel for me and to accompany the prawns, a Pinot Grigio ‘Riff’, Alois Lageder which we felt lacked character. Both were £5.50.

For a main course I went for pan fried John Dory, salsify and cream fennel and my companion the grilled Angus beef fillet, peppercorn mash with blue stilton butter and deep fried shallot rings. Two side dishes of perfectly creamed spinach and runner beans with fried garlic and dry cure bacon added to the deep pleasure of the mains. The delicate John Dory did not have its character repressed by the preparation, as often happens, and the beef was pink perfection and the mash and stilton butter were delicious. Very impressive. This time, the chosen wines were a French Sauvignon de Touraine, Les Nuage – clean, rounded and perfect, and for the beef, a magnificent, velvety rich Argentinian Cetena Malbec.

A ‘palette cleanser’ of mandarin sorbet – soft not solid, and capturing the very essence of the fruit - was then served.

Puddings again showed how Robert Lyons skilfully manages to convert apparent basics into something a bit special. He creates dishes which, in description, do not suggest great daring, but in execution are lifted to a new level, displaying confidence and understanding of his materials.

So to finish I tried one of the three traditional British puddings on offer – the bread and butter - and my companion was seduced by a platter of Langtry’s sorbets and ice cream –strawberry Pimms, apple and elderflower, vanilla, pistachio. ’Perfection’ was the only word she stopped to utter! A word wholly appropriate to the whole Langtry’s experience.

The price of starters ranges from £6 to £9, that of mains from £12.50 to £22 ( for the Angus beef). All side orders are £3.50 and all puddings £7. There are a range of set lunches averaging out at £18 for two courses and up to £27.50 for three. Lunch is served from 12 -2.30 pm, and dinner between 6 and 10.30pm.

Langtry’s - 21 Pont Street, London SW1. Telephone 020 7201 6619

Stephen Higginson, January 2007

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

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