Jazz, haggis and cigars are not the most obvious companions, but Boisdale of Belgravia demonstrates that with some prime steak and unforgettable single malts – they really are the secret to a grand night out.
Located between Sloane Square and Victoria station, Boisdale captures the high-end culture of Belgravia, whilst not losing the down to earth touch of London's transport hub. There is a whiff of the old boys' club about the place, with its cigar terrace, epic whisky bar and red ochre panelled interiors – and yet the atmosphere is genuinely welcoming. You'll soon feel like a member of the club, as you sit at the bar and chat with regular clientele or pick up whisky recommendations from the excellent bar staff (several of whom were here last time we visited two years ago, which is always a good sign). The jazz here is excellent; mostly 30s and 40s inspired, with Jools Holland as the Patron of Music. Owner and esteemed Scotsman Ranald Macdonald (Younger of Clanranald, and elder son of the 24th Chief of Clanranald, in case you're asking) has been successfully combining his passion for jazz, cigars and single malts here since 1989.
Enter through a narrow foyer, where polite staff relieve you of your bags and the burden of your day, and enter into the venue, which has five interconnected distinctive areas. In the white table-clothed restaurant, J.P. Newton plays out jazz standards most nights until 9pm, when scheduled acts follow into the small hours. A few more tables sit at the back amongst soft tartan furnishings, pictures of illustrious Scot poets, and old jazz instruments – but it's the glinting bottles of whisky that catch the eye. Behind this temptation is the airy conservatory for more secluded dining, which seems quite happily at odds with a cosy little pub tucked into the corner, jam-packed with happy, after hours office workers. Follow your nose, and the scent of mellow tobacco brings you to the sheltered cigar terrace upstairs: although you're unlikely to get a table unless you've made a reservation.
At such a classic establishment, you can't help but order classic dishes – and that's what Boisdale does best. Royal Keta caviar (£15) is elegantly served over ice in a conical glass dish, with sour cream, onion and chopped egg. Little balls of salmon roe explode delicately against the palate and pair perfectly with the clean shot of Russian Standard Platinum vodka. Seared South Uist king scallops (£18.50) sit in harmony and juxtaposition with the Macsween haggis, as the delicate white flesh unashamedly relishes in the dark meaty grain of the noble pudding. Dunkeld oak-smoked salmon (£12.75) is uncompromisingly creamy, and served simply with shallot and caper relish to allow the prime ingredient from Loch Duart to shine.
Boisdale steaks enjoy a whole section of the menu to themselves; the 28-day dry aged Aberdeenshire fillet (£32.50) has the ruggedness of being served on the bone, with an utterly tender and velvety texture. Sautéed lamb sweetbreads and braised kidneys (£17.50) is a grown up school dinner, served with tarragon sauce and smooth mashed potato. Truffle makes an understated but impactful appearance in the steak mayonnaise dressing (£2) and crowning a bowl of creamed wilted spinach (£9.50), and when you have five types of mustard from which to choose, you know that a restaurant takes its condiments seriously.
The so called 'rich dark chocolate cake' (£6.75) is exactly that: a delicate sliver of warm chocolate cake served with honeycomb ice cream, ganache and a single raspberry. If you can take any more pleasure, order a glass of 30 year old Noe Pedro Ximenez (£13.50). It is dark and full of mellifluous molasses notes that pair astoundingly well with Lancashire Bomb cheese. Havana cigars are also on the menu.
Boisdale takes wine very seriously (they have their own brand of house wine), and waiters happily advise how to navigate the wine list – as it's more of a wine book, really. However whisky (as opposed to the Irish whiskey with an 'e') is always top of the menu here, with over 170 scotch malt whiskies, as well as single grain, premium blended, Irish, Japanese and American whiskies. Boisdale is so committed to the good stuff, that they even offer their own range of bottlings – one of the reasons why their Canary Wharf branch was named Whisky Restaurant of the Year in March 2013 by Whisky Magazine.
The Last Word
Boisdale has an exclusive members' club feel, without the baggage. Come for steak, jazz and fine whiskies – and you will not be disappointed.