"The service was perfect. The food was astonishingly good. And the building and its’ decor is bewitching."Review Rating: Reviewed by KimT
I was scheduled to have a catch up lunch with a professional colleague who is also a dear friend and left him to decide on a venue that suited his schedule of meetings. When he said “The Criterion in Piccadilly” I thought to myself that I knew exactly where that is – everyone knows the theatre right next to Eros – and thought no more about it.
But when I arrived I was bowled over – how could I have not noticed this absolute treasure of a place before? You walk through the discrete doorway and enter into a glamorous tardis of an interior. I felt as if I was entering into an opulent, exotic, elegant and peaceful Narnia through the proverbial dull wardrobe door.
On a Monday lunchtime it was quiet. I sat in one of the plush red chairs in the generously proportioned bar and admired the surroundings. The glittering mosaics on the ceiling, the rounded art-deco sculptures punctuating the white linen covered tables – it’s surely a visual feast.
We were quickly shown to our table which is a little further along from the bar where we could admire the slightly raised end of the restaurant which boasts an impossibly large fire place. It really is huge – but at the same time relaxing, intimate and friendly. The staff were wonderful. Our French waiter was enthusiastic about our choices and knowledgeable about what was what in the kitchen. He also nearly managed to persuade us to have desserts too – the way he described some of the options.
I didn’t have a starter although I was sorely tempted by the steak tartare (£11), home cured and air dried goose breast (£11) and the hand rolled buffalo mozzarella (£11).
I selected the pan fried John Dory, samphire, clams, tomato and onion salsa, coriander cress (£26.00) – mostly because I adore samphire. But I have to tell you that the John Dory was perfectly cooked – firm and meaty. I had also ordered a side of chips – and this was an extremely generous portion (I couldn’t finish them! – a first).
My friend had the roasted cod which he proclaimed excellent. We washed this down with a half bottle of Sancerre (£26) and lots of tap water which was provided in a glass jug. Our coffees were presented with petits fours.
There’s a whole heap of history about the place as well – it is where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle first imagined Dr Watson meeting Sherlock Holmes. It was used as a setting for films such as Batman: The Dark Knight, London Boulevard, A Good Year and even the recent Madonna film W.E. Winston Churchill and David Lloyd George, Edgar Wallace, Sir Hugh Catchpole and Bertrand Russell had links to the place as well.
You really have to see this place to believe it. It would be fine for a business lunch where you wanted somewhere a bit different (unique?) but nonetheless impressive. I would be equally happy taking friends and family there and I would love to know what the atmosphere is like in the evenings.
The service was perfect. The food was astonishingly good. And the building and its’ decor is bewitching. And all at a totally central and convenient location. I shall be returning on a regular basis.
KimT reviewed Criterion Restaurant on Fri 20 Apr 2012