Having been welcomed warmly by the traditionally British Footman and reception staff (including the dog!) at the Athenaeum hotel, we were directed toward the restaurant area and awaited to be seated. The restaurant was busy and the ambiance was relaxed.

Being seated, we had a bit of time to appreciate the surroundings prior to drinks being ordered. The mixture of booth areas, twin tables and large circular tables, all in different yet classic styles, perfectly complemented each other. The atmosphere was informal and not stuffy and it was welcome to see an eclectic mix of people dining – from suited business people, to retired couples and a couple of families. I felt quite ‘at home’

After a few minutes, the head waitress came over to check all was well and advise on the drinks and food menu. Friendly yet professional, we were fully informed of the evening menu as well as the individual ingredients of each dish. Upon questioning her accent, I was delighted to hear that the waitress grew up in Bethnal Green (born within the sound of the bow bells – proper cockney!), the same as my wife. After a brief chat, we were quickly and succinctly bought back to the task in hand – dinner.

Starters

I opted for the Belgian endive, walnut and Roquefort salad to start. Expecting a bowl of salad, I was almost disappointed to be presented with a few hors d’oeuvre bite size baby gem lettuce filled morsels. That was until I took the first bite: Pop corn, honey roast  flavour, the almost naughtiness of the sweet caramel crunch of the walnut and the freshness of the leaf kind of make you  feel like you’re eating a guilt free snack. Texture and flavour all in one bite. The simple beauty of the presentation in no way reflected the eating experience which was clean, fresh and was ideal in preparing me for the next course.

Belgian Endive with walnut and Roquefort cheese (£8)

My compatriot went for crab lasagna which had a lovely creamy flavour and looked amazing.

Lasagna of Dorset crab with Nantais butter sauce (£15.50)

Wine

douROSA 2013 (£18.50)

This 2013 tasty dark purplish red wine comes from the Quinta de la Rosa vineyard in the Duoro region in Portugal. This wine has a blend of four grapes and had an aroma of cherry and cassis. I felt it was the perfect choice with the meaty dishes to come.

Mains

For my main I went safe and had steak, medium to well done. It was smoky and had a slightly charred flavour. After my usual prodding to check for texture and blood, it was clear that the meat was obviously well aged as the steak knife sliced through with little effort to reveal the deep pink inner. The meat had texture yet took little effort to chew. Not quite melt in your mouth, but who really wants that in a steak? Like all condiments should, the sauce was subtlety flavoured yet punchy and did not take any glory from the flavour of the actual steak.

Rose county beef rib eye, chips and green peppercorn butter (£28.50)

Not being a huge portion addict, I welcomed what initially I thought was a small portion of chunky chips. Having had a few mouthfuls of the steak my need for texture was realised as I crunched in to the cracker like coating of the thrice fried morsal. Wow. All that you need in a chip – crunchy and soft in the middle  My dinner partner, equally impressed, helped me finish the lot. My side dish order was the sauted spinach.

Sauted spinach (£4.50) side order

Desserts

For my dessert I had the blood orange Cheesecake. It was presented in the centre of the serving plate with little dressing. Upon first bite, I realised why. Crunchy, almost caramel crisp bottom, the soft cheese needed little attention as it melted in the mouth and the sharp, yet warming citrus gelatine top rounded of the taste experience. No need to dress this one up.

Blood Orange Cheesecake Valrhona chocolate ice cream (£7.50)

My dinner partner opted for the chocolate mouse. The presentation and taste again was excellent.

Valrhona chocolate mouse, pistachio & almond biscuits (£8.50)

Conclusion

There is no doubt that you are eating top notch tucker in a high end establishment. Aside from the great food, I was most impressed by the relaxed, informal feeling within the restaurant as well as the professional, courteous, friendly manner in which the waiting staff dealt with us. This place is a real British classic.

Details

This review was made possible with the help of Visit London – the official London travel guide.

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