It might at first appear a little strange to see a chef of Rowley Leigh’s repute providing the culinary expertise at this very posh cinema in Bayswater, but then you realise this is a pretty impressive affair. Oh, and his restaurant, Le Café Anglais, is right next door.
Bayswater is hardly the most exciting of places, what with the cheap hotels, the run down boozers and the tourists making their way somewhere more salubrious. So it’s probably a good thing that The Lounge exists, with its lovely bar (complete with sofas and seating all too easy to sink into) and five cinema screens playing host to top-notch electronic leather Lazyboys (press a button, recline), table service and all the recent releases.
It really shouldn’t work, but it does. And although the intrusion of table service would be distracting were you watching some subtitled French art-house flick, it’s so quick and efficient that for most films it’s barely noticeable. You press a little button to order and press the same button to get your food taken away, all the while kicking back in some very comfortable seats. It’s clearly been well thought out, too. Each of the five rooms is small and intimate but there’s plenty of space between both adjacent seats and the rows, so not only is there privacy, there’s also plenty of room for the (very well-drilled, very friendly) staff to slink in an out with minimal fuss.
Rowley Leigh has some pretty serious pedigree, with lengthy stints at Le Gavroche, Joe Allen, Kensington Place and his most recent venue, his own Le Café Anglais. His consultancy here is something of a coup for Odeon, and while the menu reads well there’s always the nagging suspicion that these kinds of deals don’t provide the actual cooking the food needs to succeed. Thankfully, it really does.
It’s all pretty accessible, and whilst a menu featuring everything from lamb kebabs and risotto to curries and lasagne might look like it’s trying to be all things to all men, there’s enough skill in the kitchen to ensure everything hits the plate pretty much impeccably. It’s not the cheapest menu, but it is good.
The starters (‘finger’) range from £6.50 (for hummus with flatbread and yoghurt) to £15.75 for some utterly excellent little fillet steak sliders (flavoursome, cooked to a medium rare blush of pink) served alongside some greaseless onion rings. The shrimp and mango maki (£13) is cleverly done and the accompanying salmon sashimi of good quality, even if the knife skills leave something to be desired (some isn’t cut all the way through).
The mains (‘fork’) feature a cracking seafood conchiglie (£13.50) with black olives and cherry tomatoes, but it’s the caesar salad that really impresses. The dressing is tart but perfectly balanced, the salad itself fresh, the croutons retaining enough crunch and the chicken tender. You’re also given the choice of including anchovies: make sure you do as although there is some debate as to whether a proper caesar should have them (Worcester sauce is often used to provide that tang) it’s immeasurably better with them added, balancing a very good dish very well indeed.
Desserts (‘spoon’) are the kinds of crowd-pleasers that cinema-goers will appreciate. Profiteroles (£7.50) are light and fluffy and a sticky toffee pudding (also £7.50) the polar opposite: sickly sweet and heavy in a very good way.
The bar proves popular, especially at the weekends, so get there early and settle into one of those comfy seats. Cocktails (£7-£9) are well made (the Mojito especially) and there’s a very good selection of beers, including London Pride (kept too cold, mind), Kirin Ichiban, Peroni, Becks and even Hoegaarden (all between £4 and £5). Fever Tree continues its inexorable rise to taking over the soft drinks world by being in heavy attendance here (their ginger beer is lovely) but if you want wine then there’s a similarly impressive selection. Bottles kick off at just shy of £20 for a decent French Chardonnay but splash out a little more for a fantastic Picpoul de Pinet at a remarkably reasonable £24.50 (or £6.50 for the glass).
The Last Word
Certainly not the cheapest way to catch a flick, but certainly one of the best. A great treat – and an even better date – it’s good to see the food more than matches what’s a well thought out, carefully conceived cinematic experience.