With the restaurant now part of the D&D Group and food trends having decidedly moved on, Quaglino's carries on regardless, but doesn't seem to be suffering for that, with business levels still decent it seems. The place too remains as grand as ever, though the non clothed tables, now quite badly chipped and in need of retirement, are the only pointer to harsher economic times.
It was my first visit to Quaglino's in over six years and I wondered how a place that I have traditionally held with some affection would fare on this revisit. I discovered that the restaurant itself remains a show stopper but the prices, for quite unexciting food, are somewhat steep, a theme I'll return to later.
Starters feature a lot of seafood dishes such as lobster bisque, dressed crab and seared scallop. Non fish starters included 'heirloom tomato & campana mozzarella', 'belgium endive & papillon roquefort' and caesar salad. I opted for the lobster cocktail, baby leaves & marie rose (£14.50). This was actually a very big starter, something not necessarily clear in the picture, in fact, it only became clear when I started eating. Like the restaurant, it's a dish on a grand scale, and included probably half of a very decent sized lobster.
The lobster itself came in sizeable chunks, too large to comfortably put in your mouth which was something of a problem, as trying to use a knife and fork to cut a lobster in an outsize Martini glass is nigh on impossible. In addition, there was a lot of Marie Rose sauce though when you could get beyond that, the lobster had little intrinsic taste. Accordingly, about half way through this, it became quite monotonous. I found myself bizarrely savouring the lettuce most for freshness and crunch.
Other fish mains included red mullet, smoked haddock fish cake, confit salmon and Dover sole.
The brasserie food however doesn't seem to match the surroundings, the dishes too plain in my view for the opulence. At Brasserie Zedel, they get away with it because the prices are so cheap, you feel you're getting the room for free, it's a bargain. At Quaglino's, you're paying in full and the meal above with one Coke and one bottle of water, with service came to £59. My comparable meal earlier in the week at The Wolseley, just round the corner, came to £49 by way of comparison.
Warming to the theme, I note that at Quaglino's, a starter of 'seared scallops, bayonne ham' is £16. A starter of 'Roast scallops with seaweed and brassicas' costs less, £14.50, at The Ledbury, arguably London's best restaurant. Then my eye drifts to The Ledbury classic 'Buffalo milk curd with Saint Nectare and truffle toast' which is divine, and priced at £15; my lobster cocktail here at £14.50 takes on a new dimension of wrong.
It's hard then to know what to make of Quaglino's. It's an amazing space with a great bar, but the menu is probably too simple to warrant a visit for the food, while the price of what they offer is too much to go there for value. In essence then, you go there for a good time with friends You can be a large group of people, make noise, have plenty of space and all find something to eat on the menu. It's another grand room that has a buzz and you'll probably remember having a great time (unless the cocktails mean you remember nothing at all). But if you want to remember the food, there's better places than this, even a short walk away.
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