We first put The Square on the blog in 2010 and loved it, and while we've been back a few times since, subsequent visits were never posted. Today, I was delighted to return in full blogging mode with @CityJohn, with a pre-plan to make an afternoon of it and enjoy the tasting menu with, as a bonus, paired wines. For sure, it's not a cheap option, but we both left the restaurant as happy as could be and can think of few better ways to spend a Saturday afternoon.
It's a sign of the time perhaps that an industry titan like Phil Howard appeared on GBM in 2012, and in that, he was uncompromising in his stance: he's a classical chef who prefers precision over novelty. In the years since our original post, the more we have got to know of Phil, the more we've grown to respect him, and the fact that The Square is still on the very top of its game two decades on, you can only doff your cap.
There's no gentle easing in with the menu here, the very first course knocks you backward with brilliance, and who can't love the idea of 'smoked eel soldiers', especially when you have a mackerel veloute to dip them in. Mackerel veloute!! A dollop of caviar on top of the eel for an extra salty kick and you'd think that's enough for heaven, but oh no, at The Square, you get too a pressed fillet of Dover sole with cucumber freshness to perfectly balance out the dish. It's a stunning way to start a menu.
The tartare of venison is not what you expect, simply because here again too the complexity and depth of the dish betrays its simple description, and the crispy deep fried egg with it, unadvertised in the menu, oh la la. We're now getting the picture, everything is just a little bit smarter than what you thought it might be.
The langoustine tail with Parmesan gnocchi is something of a signature dish (as are the desserts), but despite knowing it's on the way, it doesn't fail to enthrall. Easily to argue that it's a small piece of perfection. Only the next course, foie gras ballotine, feels underwhelming, for it is what it is, with no surprise and no wow. That's easily forgiven however, we sense why it's there. A bounce back with roast fillet of turbot leaves you again feeling that you've discovered something new, no matter that you've eaten lovely turbot before. Wonderful for taste, texture and depth, it's breathtaking cooking, and you look outside the window to double check that you've not been transported to the seaside.
Special mention for the cheese course because it transcends the genre, bridging savouries and sweet as deep fried Stilton and bavarois come with a cocoa & black pepper crumb; simply an inspiration. Then two Square dessert classics, Brillat-Savarin cheesecake and Banana Souffle where granola ice cream is another wow moment rather than a supporting gimmick.
To go to The Square for lunch is always a cause for excitement, but expectation can be the mortal enemy to satisfaction. However, today, they delivered a brilliant meal, from start to end, and all these years on, The Square continues to showcase just how good the best food in the capital can be. We've been lucky enough to try a lot of restaurants since we last ate at The Square for the blog, but no matter, this star simply shines brighter, and we can again report that The Square continues to deliver up stunning gastronomy. As the day ends, and I look back on my meal there, I am a very happy camper indeed, simply wow.