Mauro Colagreco at Raffles at The OWO restaurant review

In a year of hotly anticipated hotel openings in London, it’s fair to say that Raffles London at The Old War Office was the most keenly awaited

Years in the making, it’s not only the first Raffles hotel in London but the rejuvenation of an iconic building with a remarkable history. Completed in 1906, the Old War Office carries long associations with great figures of the twentieth century, from Winston Churchill to Ian Fleming, who was inspired by the building’s resident spies to create the James Bond series. 

There’s a huge amount more to say about the building and hotel itself, which also has luxury residences (several of which have been snapped up by some well-known actors we hear), but we are primarily here to talk about the food and, in particular, the two headline restaurants from superstar chef Mauro Colagreco. Mauro is behind the former World No 1 restaurant, the three Michelin-starred Mirazur in the south of France, plus several more casual restaurants in cities around the world. 

At Raffles London Mauro is in charge of Saison, an all-day dining restaurant serving a Mediterranean menu in a beautiful glass-roofed space that used to be the old library; and the big ticket fine dining spot simply called Mauro Colagreco at Raffles London at The OWO. There’s also a chef’s table ‘Mauro’s Table’ attached to this. 

Our first visit to Raffles at The OWO was for dinner at the self-titled spot, which is set in a cosy side room with a big old stone fireplace among the original features. The interior design is perhaps a bit too neutral, however, with big beige velvet sofas, yellow and beige chairs, and beige carpets. Other than the modern artworks and illustrations on the walls, it all feels a bit out of step with the menu, which is sharp, creative, and forward-thinking. To be fair, there’s still a decent buzz to the room when it’s full, but as far as London dining rooms go, it’s probably not going to win any prizes. 

There’s a choice of a five-course tasting menu for £165, a la carte (essentially a three-course menu for £110), or a set lunch menu for £60 – a good place to start if you want to try it out on a slightly cheaper price tag. Maruo’s calling card is hyper seasonal ingredients; at Mirazur he has acres of farmland attached to the restaurant. Although lacking such a luxury in central London, the menu is nonetheless structured around the ‘British country garden’ showcasing seasonal fruit and veg from suppliers that he’s found around the UK. 

Each course on the menu highlights a key ingredient in rather opaque fashion – “carrot”, “lettuce” and so on – but this of course only tells you part of the story. The lettuce, for instance (our favourite course of the night) is actually grown in shipping containers in London at Crate to Plate, and comes with a beautiful vermouth sauce and chunks of smoked haddock. Then there was the likes of “Radicchio”, or more accurately, grilled loin of venison served with a mustard sauce and crunchy bitter leaves; and “Citrus” for dessert, a crisp ravioli shell on top of black lemon ice cream and yoghurt fontainebleau.

Aside from the first course of carrot and sea bass sashimi, which didn’t really work for us, the cooking was excellent, with interesting dishes that challenged the norm of classical fine dining. We did leave wondering slightly what it’s intended audience was however – perhaps a bit too challenging and left-field for the regular fine dining crowd and hotel guests and, for more adventurous restaurant-fanatics maybe not quite attractive enough, especially when you consider the dining room.

There’ll be no such trouble over the hallway at Saison, where the beautiful courtyard-garden style dining room combines with a crowd pleasing menu to create a restaurant that feels more comfortable in its own skin. At lunch we started with oysters, duck terrine with quince chutney and grilled bread, and quail with smoked chestnuts and a sharp salsify clementine vinaigrette. For mains, we love the spit roasted rack of lamb served with a rich puck of confit shoulder and a pumpkin gnocchi and cavolo nero gratin on the side – gnocchi as an accompaniment is unusual but absolutely fine with us. Grilled fish and meats are excellent here too, especially the wild sea bass with citrus beurre blanc and artichoke mousseline. Desserts were perhaps the strongest suit of all, including the beautiful big bowl of pear panna cotta topped with bright pink hibiscus jelly and crunchy tea shortbread biscuits. They do a mean tiramisu too. 

While each restaurant is catering to very different needs and styles, Saison is the one that felt most enjoyable overall, taking overtly quite simple dishes and adding that twenty percent magic dust and a little subtle twist here and there to keep things interesting. There’s enough to recommend Mauro’s eponymous fine-dining spot too, if you like the sound of it, and it may well develop into something more fully fleshed out in time – it definitely feels like there’s a great restaurant in there waiting to get out.

57 Whitehall, London SW1A 2BX

Source link

Back to top button