The venue is undeniably grand and having been a car showroom and a bank, its conversion into a restaurant (which was expertly done in 2003) seems simply an obvious one now.
On our last visit there, some years back, we took friends from out of town. The Wolseley is a sensible choice in this respect: the building classy enough, the food good enough and the vibrancy of the venue at full chatter like a metaphor for the capital itself. The recession seems to have changed nothing in this respect and almost a decade on from its opening, The Wolseley remains a landmark London restaurant.
The busyness of the venue does however come at a cost and service was at best efficient, sometimes terrible and certainly never personable. This is not through idleness for sure, and these are amongst the hardest working waiters/waitresses you'll ever find, but with so much going on so quickly, the last thing they want is to get trapped at your table while you direct small talk at them about the weather so they rarely make eye contact while servicing the table and certainly never talk.
This last point was contributory to a service failure when after 20 minutes they had not taken my food order and I had to ask my waitress if she would please take it. 'Do you not want to wait for your guest?' she enquired, but this was a table booked for one, a fact that had not it seems been relayed to her by the front desk. To her credit, she was appropriately apologetic. Also however, having finished my soft drink well before I ordered the food (given the wait), I was never asked if I wanted another, or indeed wine with my food; I think they assume that if you want it you'll ask for it.
My main course, Monday's 'plat du jour', was Coq au Vin, and was the best dish of the day. Three good portions of chicken in the beautiful rich red wine sauce, as good as any coq au vin you're ever likely to be served in a restaurant. Very happy with this. The only error with this dish is that the pomme purée that came with it was lukewarm. It should have been returned to the kitchen but given that I had ravenously munched through too much bread in the lengthy wait for my order to be taken, my carb-o-meter was already full and I let it slide.
There are many restaurants that, while the meal has to be good enough, a visit is not always about the food. On this particular Monday at The Wolseley, there were young people, old people, couples, families and friends. It is, and this is the clever bit, a restaurant for all people and all occasions because the venue imparts some of its own grandness to your particular visit, keeping The Wolseley special. The buzz to the room, and I can think of nowhere more buzzy, is the sound of people having a good time and that's what The Wolseley is about.
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The team behind The Wolseley have recently opened Brasserie Zedel, grand on a budget.