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Art and Food in Marylebone – The Wallace Collection:
My first encounter with Peyton & Byrne, the restaurant group, was at the Royal Academy. I’m a long standing friend of the RA, one of my favourite galleries in London, and can remember being delighted by supper after a late night viewing of one of the exhibitions. I’d just started London-Unattached and was sufficiently impressed to write up a review (though I hadn’t got addicted to taking pictures of my food at that stage). I ate at what is now called the Grand Cafe – and since then I’ve been back to the Keeper’s House (another Peyton &Byrne restaurant at the Royal Academy) and enjoyed that too. It’s slightly frightening to realise that I actually eat out in more restaurants than get written up in reviews – and more often than not, unless I’ve been asked to visit as a guest, what gets written up here is something of a lottery.
An invitation to lunch over the Christmas break at The Wallace Collection restaurant seemed like a great idea. While I’d heard of the Wallace Collection, I’m a little ashamed to admit that I’d never visited. It’s the ‘wrong’ part of London for me. One of the benefits of writing, though, is that I find I am invited to try new things. Sometimes things I’ve just overlooked, sometimes things that are slightly out of my comfort zone. Reviewing events, restaurants and places has another benefit, for me I find it is like putting on a new pair of glasses. I take more notice of the detail, think a little more about what I am enjoying and the end result is altogether more rewarding.
So, I made my way to the Wallace Collection and marveled at the rather wonderful building in xx square. The imposing entrance sets the scene for something quite special. The restaurant is housed in a vast atrium which I would imagine comes into its own in the Summer. Even in December it was a light, cheerful place to sit.
Of course with a glass of champagne it became even better.
I loved the space and the menu, although for once it was skewed in the direction of vegetarians, with two vegetarian starters and main courses, one meat of each and one fish of each. And, having cooked roast chicken the day before I didn’t want the Label Rouge chicken. So, we ended up both having the same main course – something we try to avoid for the most part to ensure a balance review
My starter of Pate de Campagne was served with fig jam, pickled mushrooms and nicely toasted bread. All very pleasant and easy to eat, the fig jam was a delicious accompaniment.
Seared Coquilles St Jacques was, to my mind, not what it said on the tin, although the clue perhaps should have come from the menu description. The dish looked lovely and the scallops were perfectly cooked, but instead of being served with mushrooms and white wine sauce in a shell, they were plated on cauliflower puree with a champagne vinaigrette. I suspect anyone who was really yearning for Coquilles st Jacques might have been disappointed at such a diversion from the classic presentation. It’s a tricky issue, because while to the French Coquilles St Jacques are just scallops, British and American menus tend toward a particular presentation.
Our mains of sole roasted on the bone with swede, kale and almonds were really very good. The fish was presented ‘tidied up’ with no head or tail and the skin removed. But, all importantly, still on the bone, which does give a deep flavour. And, perfectly cooked so that the flesh was firm and not too flaky, it was easy enough to fillet at the table. I’d been a little hesitant about the vegetable pairings, but actually the mixture worked very well and I even enjoyed the little cubes of swede,
For dessert, my Apple tart Tatin was a clear winner over the French cheese platter, which was nice but not exceptional.
Afterwards we went for a quick wander around the gallery to see the Laughing Cavalier portrait and to visit the armour section. The Hedonist, apparently, was Trinity Colllege of Music’s youngest ever junior exhibitionist and as a child he’d often come to the Wallace collection as a treat on Saturdays after he’d been to Music School. The armour was stunning – beautifully displayed so that I can imagine even the most impatient of children being fascinated by both human and equine.
So, recommended for food and for the quality of art. Entrance to the Gallery is free while the A La Carte Menu prices have starters from £8.50 to £14 or so and mains from £13.50 to £18.50, along with a reasonably priced wine and cocktail list
The Wallace Collection and Restaurant.
London W1U 3BN
020 7563 9500