"Not a hint of snobbishness or stuffiness"Review Rating: Reviewed by KimT
When I worked in Stratton Street, many years ago, I visited Le Caprice on a regular basis – along with Langan’s Brasserie. In those days Le Caprice was known for its celebrity clientele and its Royal Patronage (Princess Diana was said to like the place) although I remember it’s unfussy and almost canteen-like vibe – particularly the metal chairs scraping against the black and white tiled floor.
It’s rather different today as it’s been refurbished recently. Tucked behind The Ritz and opposite an excellent traditional pub, it’s located on a corner of what looks like an apartment block. There’s a small covered area with a couple of tables to the side for those who wish to take in the air on warmer evenings or puff a crafty fag.
On arrival, the doorman was charming and I was welcomed warmly by the staff who melted away when I saw my dining companion at the large bar already enjoying his Grey Goose vodka and tonic. I can happily report that whilst the flavour is French, the hospitality here is warm and unstuffy.
We were there early (615pm) and it was pretty quiet (although the other diners were obviously well heeled and well spoken) and I have to say that the rather subtle and tasteful leftover Valentine’s Day decorations made it feel more garden like than I suspect it does usually. The style hints at Art Deco (lovely bevelled mirrors) which is nice and there are occasional black and white photos of its famous clientele – I spotted Mick Jagger and Michael Caine.
A piano was playing but not too loudly, as we surveyed the menus. I ordered a bottle of Petit Chablis (£35.50) which we sipped as we choose.
Whilst there were some fabulous choices for starters (red mullet soup, sautéed lamb sweetbreads, chargrilled squid, duck salad, herb roasted rare tune, scallops) we both choose the dressed Dorset crab with celeriac and watercress (£17.50). A delicate timbale of perfectly dressed crab which wasn’t too cold with tiny arrangements of the accompaniments next to it, was a joy to behold. The taste was fresh and evocative of the sea and the texture was supported by the impossibly finely cut celeriac.
My companion was a little disappointed that his Bannockburn rib eye steak (£34.50) could not be served with peppercorn sauce and he made do with the offered Bearnise. However, he was impressed with the mustard tray offering English, French, Dijon and some other options. His pommes allumettes were crisp but well-seasoned.
Torn by some of the other options (such as Caprice burger, confit suck, post roast guinea fowl, rump pf venison and Thai baked sea bass) I choose the salmon fishcake (large, soft, melt in the mouth) with buttered spinach and a beautifully light, creamy and subtle sorrel sauce (£16.25). Naturally, I requested a side od medium cut chips (£4) which were hot and crispy.
By 8pm, the place was full and it felt really comfortable and companiable. Not a hint of snobbishness or stuffiness that you sometimes associate with West End eateries. And whilst they had said we only had the table until 815pm, no one mentioned that it was now past 830pm.
Although we were sated, we couldn’t resist the dessert menu. My honeycomb ice cream arrived with a little jug of hot chocolate sauce (£7.50) and it was rich, sweet and delicious. My companion’s choice of Yorkshire rhubarb meringue (£7.35) prompted much discussion of rhubarb recipes – and I declare that this dish was a wonderful twist on a classic. It was sweet rather than tart and again rather rich.
With an espresso for my colleague, the bill came to £181.19 which included a service charge of 12.5%. The food, while offering some fairly unoriginal dishes, was creatively and expertly cooked and beautifully presented. It’s rare to find a place that caters for ordinary and more refined palates so well.
The set lunch and dinner menu (two courses £19.75 and three courses £24.25) offers good value for money for a restaurant like Le Caprice and the choices were good. Started included cauliflower soup, beetroot salad with goat’s cheese and purple sprouting broccoli with brown shrimps and capers. Main courses included salmon fishcake, chargrilled chicken breast and wild mushroom risotto. Desserts the honeycomb ice cream, blackberry and apple pie and cheddar and biscuits.
PS I have to say that I was delighted when I visited the loos to discover toiletries by Jo Malone. They are in a vast marble area somewhat like a mini-spa – and well worth a visit in their own right.
KimT reviewed Le Caprice on Mon 27 Feb 2012