One of the selling points for it was the weekend brunch menu. Not a silly full-English-available-until-noon sort of brunch menu (it is taking the British a while to understand brunch) but an 11am-5pm eggs, pastries and bloody marys brunch menu. Megan was also confident (she's been there several times) that they would let us sit and chat for hours. Perfect for our purposes.
It's down on Aldwych, which unfortunately means pushing through hordes of directionally-challenged tourists on their way to musical adaptations of movies. Not the most promising or relaxing of starts. But it makes up for it by having a coat-check girl who takes care of your belongings in a very civilised way.
The others had already arrived and spent some time in the bar drinking prosecco, but I caught up with them just as they were shown to the table. Dark wood, heavy silverware, actual linen tablecloths and napkins - I felt slightly under-dressed.
|Generous with the smoked salmon|
|There's another half sandwich on the other side of the lettuce|
The croque monsieur that Sophia ordered was a comparatively light option - it came with salad - but again it was generously filled and rich.
|Omelette Arnold Bennett|
I think I won the ordering though (OK, fine, Sophia doesn't eat seafood so she would disagree with me but I still won). I've always wanted to try an Omelette Arnold Bennett but not enough to actually make my own and when I have been in other places that served them there has always been something else I would rather have. Not this time though.
You know how some recipes come with the advice "not a dish for every day" or "an occasional treat"? This is one of those. Incredibly rich. Almost literally heart-stoppingly rich. But incredibly delicious. The underlying omelette was quite light and fluffy, definitely not the sort of frittata-style egg cake that I suspect it could become. Then moist flakes of un-dyed smoked haddock. This was the bit I have worried about when I was wondering if I would like the Arnold Bennett, because while I really like smoked fish sometimes it can be a bit too smoky and a bit too fishy. This was neither - just the perfect amount of subtle smoky savouriness punctuating the very buttery egginess above and below. Then on top of that, a layer of delicious, perfectly seasoned hollandaise, grilled until just bronzed. I used some of the excellent, chewy pan d'epi to wipe every scrap of sauce from the plate.
|Rhubarb and Pear crumble|
The fact that the service was a little slow played to our advantage here. The staff gave us a leisurely pause to enable us to face dessert. Ellen makes crumbles regularly, but her oven is broken at the moment and she is having withdrawal symptoms. It came with a little jug of cream. She seemed pretty happy with it, although I suspect it wasn't as good as her home-made.
Both Sophia and Megan had scoops of ice cream, but I only took one picture - other than the colours they looked alike. I had an ice cream version of a mont blanc - chestnut ice cream instead of the usual riced chestnut puree, topped with (far too much) whipped cream and some boozy candied chestnuts.
After the omelette I couldn't face the whipped cream, so I scraped most of that off. The biscuit had gone through crisp and into tooth-breakingly hard, and wasn't really a taste sensation. The chocolate sail looked very impressive, but was a bit too bitter for me. So the only bits I ate were the ice cream and the whisky chestnuts, but they were so good I could have eaten them twice.
It was all pretty good value I thought - it came to about £40 a head, including service charge and a glass each (because we arrived at different times) and then a bottle of prosecco. And they let us sit and natter for about three hours and were exceptionally polite and charming when they needed to kick us out because the next booking had theatre tickets. The whole operation felt very polished, as you would expect from the owners of The Wolseley (although obviously a bit more laid-back - they clearly don't have the "no photography" rule that the Wolseley enforces).