the UK based Restaurant and Hotel Review

Villandry Foodstore & Restaurant
Louise Elgin reports:

Pancake Day 2004

The team at Villandry will celebrate Shrove Tuesday by making sweet (£3.50) and savoury pancakes (£4.50) in the specialist foodstore between 10.00am and 8.00pm.

Sweet Toppings

Fruit syrups: 
including muscat, gooseberry and elderflower as well as the more traditional strawberry, raspberry, plum, and summer fruits. (Part of a new range from Pink Farms in Warwickshire, made from fruit and sugar with no additives). Plus: jams, chocolate sauce & maple syrup.

Savoury Fillings

There will be a range of fillings available including Spinach and ricotta, British, French or Italian cheese, and Cured hams or salami.

Fitzrovia, as the estate agents have grandly named this part of the West End, has always had a rather soulless feel to it. But there's been a long-standing tradition of central European food around here, going back to the postwar days of the now legendary Schmidt's, where the salt beef bagels were without peer. Perhaps then, not such an unusual choice of location for this very modern European-style gourmet grocer, deli and eaterie.

As well as a bar, serving breakfast, light meals and drinks all day long, there is a restaurant. The entrance is via the spotless, modern foodstore, which has one salivating at every turn. Its beautiful presentation of everything, including mammoth selections of cheeses, meats, fruits and vegetables, provides a veritable feast for the senses

Moreover, the light and airy building has created a very conducive atmosphere for gourmet shopping, which should tempt even the most jaded of palates.

My first impression of the dining room was the rather Spanish, Andalusian feel to it. One could almost say austere. Concrete floors, simple wooden tables and chairs, glass walls and very modern lamps, transported me away to the Iberian peninsular. We had a reservation for 7.45pm and on arrival the place was a third full, by an hour later it was packed to the nines. With last orders being at 10.30pm this would also make a good venue for a light, post theatre snack, being only a short taxi ride away from theatreland.

A very interesting and inspiring menu had me unsure what to choose, as there were too many tempting suggestions - the sort of food that is too much of a fiddle to do at home, with excellent ingredients fresh from the foodstore. After much deliberation we decided to start off with a platter of fabulous Spanish charcuterie. This consisted of two different types of air-dried Parma ham, two different types of chorizo sausage and a dish of olives.

My companion was in raptures, describing the ham as delicate and aromatic whilst the chorizo had a lovely oaked, smoked wooded flavour, complimenting the excellent olives. They had that classic bittersweet taste that is so evocative of bygone holidays. We also had a plate of plump langoustines that were served with a large bowl of aioli. Sadly, the lingering taste sensation from the meat platter did not allow the palate to fully appreciate this.

We were drinking a refreshing bottle of white '99 Bourgogne Aligote, which was delicious and added to the delicacy of the varying flavours.

To follow I decided to try something a little different and chose globe artichoke served with spinach and poached egg. The dense flavours of the combined tastes were excellent, the poached egg cooked to perfection and perching neatly on the top. My guest got straight down to business and ordered venison, which he described as very good, the meat being tender and pink with excellent vegetables, including braised chicory and fabulous carrot purée that was "very sweet and toffee like".

We decided we must follow with cheese as the vast array in the next-door foodstore looked so tempting. We choose a Philip Oliver, which was runny on the outside and like goat's cheese in the middle; it was full of flavour and very high! Absolutely delicious.

Still on the cheese theme I had ordered a cheesecake which was obviously baked (the authentic way) and tasted like a proper Central European cheesecake should taste, with a deep flavour and extremely rich.

The prices at Villandry are those of an average London restaurant, (allow £35-£45 a head including wine) the atmosphere made us feel very relaxed and there was no pressure to give up the table to a later booking. This is somewhere I think is set to become a very established landmark of this newly fashionable area.

Louise Elgin - August 2000

Villandry Foodstore & Restaurant
170 Great Portland Street, London W1
Tel 020 7631-3131

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