Grandeur, glamour and opulence sum up The Wolseley – this all day European style restaurant serves up a perfect treat, whether it’s a 7am light breakfast or a full-blown late dinner at midnight.
The Wolseley feels like an institution on Piccadilly, despite only opening at the end of 2003. It’s easily reached from Green Park or Piccadilly Circus tube stations, and is a short walk from ritzy Mayfair or Bond Street. Greeted by the doormen, you’ll be swished inside to the immaculately restored 1920s Venetian style Wolseley car showroom, with grand pillars and arches, and a central horseshoe-shaped seating area. Today, restauranteur extraordinaire Chris Corbin and Jeremy King (behind the original Le Caprice) have created a world of muted glamour, with a 1950s black and white movie feel – large chandeliers, monochrome tiles, Japanese lacquered black wood, perfect table settings, and black leather banquette seating.
The Wolseley aims to feel like a Parisian or Viennese all day cafe, and succeeds perfectly with snooty black suit, black shirt and black tie clad waiters, keen to let you know what time you can stay at your table until and dashing about serving seemingly everyone but you. You shouldn’t let the arrogant staff ruin your experience – instead, enjoy a wry smile at their expense and concentrate on observing the amazing decor and the celebrities at the next table. With Joan Collins, Michael Parkinson and Nigella Lawson among the regulars, the crowd of moneyed businessmen and wealthy families all fight to sit in the A-list friendly horseshoe area, in the hope of sharing the banquette with someone even more glamorous than themselves.
Serving food from 7am to midnight means that the menu choices have to be pretty varied – start the day with pastries, croissants and fruit salads if you’re not too hungry, or for the early bird gastronomes there’s the legendary Wolseley speciality Eggs Benedict, ducks eggs and haggis or a caviar omelette.
Prime time comes in the evening though, with dinner easily the highlight. Reservations are vital, and even then you may find yourself waiting to be seated at the bar for twenty minutes or so (grin and bear it, it’s worth it!). After enjoying a glass of the house Champagne at the bar, the staff will be happy to talk you through the menu of grills, crustacea and fish, though the menu won’t hold too many surprises, drawn mainly from European and British classics to make you feel at home.
A great starting point is the herrings and pumpernickel, if you have the stomach for it. This small, oily fish is full of flavour and set off nicely by the black German bread, though it’s not to everyone’s taste. More palatable is the £12.50 foie gras and chicken liver parfait, a smooth and buttery tasting blend served with a selection of breads.
If it’s all about the main courses for you, then the generously portioned dishes here won’t disappoint. Double lamb chops with bubble and squeak at £17.25 is a taste sensation, with tender melt in the mouth meat that falls away from the bone with ease and a perfect taste of your childhood with the buttery mashed potatoes and cabbage. Just as perfect are the seared scallops with nero risotto, flash fried for mere seconds on either side to give a really fresh taste, which is set off well by the creamy and delicate flavours of the rice. Priced at £22.75, it is one of the more expensive dishes on the menu.
There aren’t too many surprises on the dessert menu either – choose from creme brulee, apple strudel and chocolate mousse, priced between £5.50 and £8.
The Wolseley has a really exceptional wine list, with 22 white wines, 20 three reds, 6 dessert wines and 12 Champagnes - there’s certainly something to match everything on the food menu! If you’re splashing out, go for the 1995 Krug at £170 a bottle - a once in a lifetime treat you’ll always remember - but for more moderate occasions the petit Chablis at £29 makes a wonderful accompaniment to the fish dishes, with lemony flavours and a hint of cream.
The Last Word
This is a rare treat with something to suit all appetites. Ignore the high prices and snooty staff, and enjoy the flair and glamour served up with whatever you order, whether it be crumpets or oysters!