"three courses, lovely breads and two bonnes bouches made for a deeply satisfying meal"Review Rating: Reviewed by Sean Sheehan
Seven South Place is the smallest Michelin-star restaurant in the UK but it is to be found in an imposingly large building, home to a suitably prestigious hotel (St James's Hotel & Club/
). If this nineteenth-century edifice with its ornate turrets and pretty roof garden was plonked down on the seafront somewhere on the south coast it would not look out of place but context is everything and its actual location, a quiet cul-de-sac sheltered from the bustle of nearby Piccadilly, is ultra-posh and bestows an air of gravitas about the place as you approach the uniformed doorman on the steps.
The way to the restaurant is via William’s Bar & Bistro and it’s tempting to pause here for a cocktail in the black and gold surroundings while taking in some of the artwork on the walls. The hotel owner, I was told by the barman, purchased a private collection of over 400 pieces of art and they are to be found scattered throughout the hotel. Ten oil paintings are hanging on one wall of the bar though the most interesting one is to be seen in one of the two small rooms that constitute the restaurant. There are only nine tables between the two compact rooms, allowing for thirty people at the most and considerably less if mostly couples occupy the tables. The atmosphere is a calm one though the décor is not as sober and restrained as one might expect: the design and colour of the wallpaper is immodest and the retro lighting a little over the top but nothing is outré and the small bowl of orchids on each table is aesthetically pleasing. Copper-coloured squares break up the ceiling space and help create a soft and rich glow which adds to the sense of quiet comfort. Relaxing in the huge comfy banquettes while perusing the menu adds a relaxed air to the decision making although the group of six at the opposite table had to shuffle about during the course of the evening as each left to visit the rest rooms.
Prices are not outrageous at £61 for a three-course meal. On my visit, starters included lobster tail with ‘fricasee of haricot coco’; we can forgive the flowery French given that it does sound considerably better than labelling them as boring old boiled Borlotti beans. And, because it’s the taste that matters most, the fancy wording earns its place due to the delicious blend of flavours on the plate: besides the lobster and beans, there were small pieces of artichokes and fairy-ring mushrooms (mousseron on the menu). OK, so there is a £12 supplement for this dish but it does distinguish itself and preparing such a dish is all par for the course in the refined stratosphere of Michelin-star restaurants. So too, and without any charge, are complimentary intermissions from the chef: a salmon-based taster before the first course and a second one – a cleansing strawberry mousse on top of a slice of the same fruit – after the main course.
Main courses are equally divided between fish and meat – vegetarians should probably inquire in advance – and you can look forward to superbly cooked plates of food. I enjoyed a fillet of turbot, the aristocrat of the sea, with just the slightest flavour of earth and pepper from the tiny golden chanterelles that accompanied it.
Desserts are self-indulgent, as they must be, though I doubt if the chef gained his star for stuffed apricots with pistachio ice-cream or poached peach with a yogurt mousse. Then again, the ability to present a dessert menu of four possibilities without including chocolate is quite an achievement.
A gourmand menu is available for £72 with added courses and wines matched to each dish but the three courses, lovely breads and two bonnes bouches made for a deeply satisfying meal.
Sean Sheehan reviewed Seven Park Place on Thu 21 Aug 2014