As a general rule, restaurants housed in any of London’s five star hotels are not for the tight-fisted Scrooges amongst us. If there also happens to be the name of a celebrity chef above the door or emblazoned across the menu, you and your debit card should enter at your own risk. These places are high-end and high-cost, as a general rule. However, sometimes the clever ones bend the rules a little and offer a more affordable alternative to lure in new guests. Why? Because high-end or not, restaurants need diners, and diners inevitably love a good deal.
I am one of these deal-loving diners, a label I’m not ashamed to wear because let’s be frank, my dining addiction has been quite onerous on my finances. So on numerous occasions I’ve happily (and sensibly) ditched the a la carte menu for a much more succinct set menu offering at a fraction of the price but still with all the restaurant’s usual bells and whistles! My latest deal-hunting triumph was a mid-week jolly to the gloriously elegant Roux at The Landau in The Langham.
Every couple of weeks, a certain someone likes to remind me he’s just a working class man, a man of the people… a man with a humble upbringing… you get the drift. He usually launches into this spiel when I’ve unknowingly (ok, sometimes knowingly) bamboozled him into dining at a restaurant you might call pretentious or poncey. In case it wasn’t abundantly clear to all and sundry, my working class man is not a fan of these establishments, but let’s not confuse his distain for the pretentious with a dislike of fine dining because you can have the latter without the former.
We are actually quite fond of fine dining; I like beautiful plates of food, I like luxurious ingredients and elaborate techniques, and I, rather frivolously, like using more than one set of cutlery throughout a meal. It’s not something we do every night, but of course there is a time and place for it. What we don’t like is a sterile dining room where everything is fifty shades of white and the lighting has gone a step beyond dim and romantic to just plain dark, or an atmosphere so cold that you’re longing for the coat the frigid maitre’d just whisked away. We don’t feel at ease, there’s absolutely no desire to be there any longer than we have to.