Aspleys at the Lanesborough, A Heinz Beck Restaurant…and some thoughts on Restaurant Reviews
I was invited to dine at Aspleys recently. It’s a fabulous restaurant in the Lanesborough Hotel that boasts Heinz Beck as executive chef – a quietly spoken German man who just happens to run Rome’s only three star Michelin restaurant as his other venture.
I was a little nervous. I ate at the Lanesborough in pre Heinz Beck days and remember being very disappointed. Now, at the time most of my working life was spent in Brussels and Paris, on expense account. So, my expectations were very high and the Lanesborough just didn’t meet them. And, one of the challenges about accepting a complimentary meal invitation is what to do if you feel let down by the venue or food but know that you have been entertained for free.
My current stance is as follows:
- If any part of the meal is complimentary, I always declare that on the blog.
- I try to be realistic in what I order. So, I won’t necessarily ask for the cheapest dish on the menu, nor will I pick the dish that has an out-of-this-world supplement. I’m trying to be Jo Average for the venue if you like.
- I will point out personal preferences and try to highlight if I feel they are just that. So, for example, I know I don’t like very noisy venues. But, if I accept an invitation to somewhere that proves to be ‘lively’ I will probably comment along the lines that this isn’t really what I’d look for, but might be great for you.
- If the review is going to be particularly damning and I’ve been invited to review, I will be courteous enough to contact the PR or restaurant management and explain my issues before printing something. The restaurant industry in this country has enough challenges without unsympathetic reviews that might just have been a ‘bad night’.
- I TRY to write objectively about the food, venue, ambience etc. And then add in my own preferences. What is great for me might be your worst nightmare and vice versa. And I’d rather have readers with their own tastes and views than a pack of memes!
As it happens, Aspleys was fabulous. There was very little to fault in the food, service or wine. We picked the 5 course tasting menu and matching Italian wine flight . Our dinner started with an amuse bouche of baccala, small crispy mouthfuls of salt cod.
My first dish was foie gras terrine, a rich smooth portion of meat with delicate garnish of smoked apple jelly and amaretti to balance the dish perfectly. I enjoyed my 2009 Quartz , a light acidic sauvignon blanc , perfectly matched with the fois gras.
This was followed by an excellent game tortellini with pumpkin and parmesan cream for me, paired with a soft chardonnay, Tasca d’Almerita. I have to admit to a twinge of jealousy at my companion’s substituted dish of carbonara fagottelli – I was given a taste of this and it is remarkable. The pasta is very silky and complemented by the lightest egg and cheese filling to give tiny mouthfuls of creaminess. There is something very special about taking such a simple dish and making it perfect.
Our next fish dish was scallop with green curry. This was paired with a 2009 Tramin gewürztraminer. Again, a flawless execution of a dish that could easily have failed. The green curry sauce was light and foamy but beautifully balanced and the scallops were tender and just gently caramelised.
Next for me was Challans Duck with Jeruselem artichoke and salsify. Very tender pink mignons of duck breast with morsels of artichoke and salsify and a delicate chocolate sauce paired beautifully with a 1996 Barbaresco. My companion’s vinaigrette of halibut and mackerel was pronounced very good but rather dominated by the mackerel.
To round off the meal we were serve a plate of tiny petit fours.
We were lucky enough to meet Heinz Beck himself, a charming gentle man who took the time to talk to every table in the restaurant that night. And, I can genuinely recommend the venue. The five course tasting menu with matching wines is priced at £100. For that you get a perfectly balanced and beautifully executed portfolio of food with wines that are intuitively right for the dish. If you are looking for something special for an anniversary, a gastro experience or simply a meal executed with faultless food, service and wine, then this is a very good option. And, what at first glance seems expensive becomes excellent value.
London, UK SW1X 7TA
(020) 7333 7254