Declaration: This will be my first restaurant review, so please hang in there.
About 6 months ago, myself and my significantly better half found ourselves in a fortunate position of having a bit of extra cash burning a hole in our pockets. Now, we’re not really the sort of couple who will take any opportunity to save money to squirrel away funds for silly grown up things like buying a house, so we decided to treat ourselves, as you do.
It didn’t take me long to suggest going out for some posh nosh, I mean, to look at me is to assume I’m a man who likes his food, so I thought, let’s make the most of it, go upmarket, get dolled up and crank the romance up to 11.
My girlfriend and I spent a short while formulating a list of places and eventually got down to 3 options:
The first option was Paris House, a Michelin Star restaurant with tasting menu a 10-12 minute cab ride away from our lovely little flat, based in Woburn.
Our second option was Alyn Williams at The Westbury, another Michelin Star restaurant with tasting menu based in Mayfair, London.
Our final, outside contender was a non-Michelin Star restaurant with tasting menu based near Gatwick Airport, but was part of a hotel and we would have been able to work in bed and breakfast into the cost.
We quickly discounted option 3, simply as we wanted to go Michelin star. So we were left with 2 options – Go local, get home earlier and spend a little less. Or, go to London, spend a little more, get home later but maybe have a bit more of an experience in London.
Well, we both knew people that had been to Paris House, and both stories mentioned and uncomfortable air of pretentiousness that tainted their experience.
“That’s sold it then” I said, “Lets go to Alyn Williams at The Westbury!”
After some excitable squealing from the girlfriend and with the confident swagger of a man who made a play for boyfriend of the century I decided to book us a table at The Westbury. I was delightfully surprised at how available tables were to book, I assumed that reservations would be hard to come by, but I was wrong, and the date was set, 18.15 on the 17th September 2016, BOOM!
So, the evening came and after a couple of pre-meal drinks at the Mason Arms on Maddox Street around the corner (nice little pub by the way) we made our way to The Westbury Hotel where we were greeted by the impeccably dressed doormen who opened the doors to us like a grand unveiling, sweeping camera shot for a Sandals resort video and we strolled in.
From that moment on we spent the next few hours utterly impressed with the service and staff during our experience. Clearly Novices, clearly doing our best to not let that show we were treated so graciously and merrily by the team it was sublime.
Speaking of Sublime I come to the food. From the first amuse bouche to the last (yes, the meal started and ended with them) the food was out of this world.
each dish was perfectly balanced, light and delicious. Now I’m a man who likes a decent portion size, but even I knew that 6 courses, bread, 2 amuse bouche and a cheese course would require a little staying power so accepted that for things like the meat course not to expect half a pig with loads of trimmings. My self-assigned task was to appreciate the flavours on each plate, and I did, it was immense.
Now, for the faint of heart, Foie Gras featured on the menu, I was excited to try it having never had it before. However, the same could not be said for my dining companion, like me she had not had it before, but is a lot more sensitive regarding animal welfare than I am and although she tried it she didn’t enjoy it knowing what it is. Having said that it did not taint her experience in the slightest.
We had decided to take the standard wine flight to accompany our tasting menu. Now, I struggled to decide if I wanted to take the standard wine flight or the beer flight to go with the dishes, being a man who loves his beer, this seemed like a valid option. But it felt right to choose wine, the grown-up thing to do. Neither my girlfriend and I are great wine drinkers, I’ll drink it with meals, but I would never sit down of an evening and enjoy a few glasses to unwind. This reason alone, and maybe price meant we stuck with the standard wine flight and not the premium as it would have probably been wasted on us.
I was personally surprised at how many courses required sweet wines and in fact my dates favourite was the Muscadet enjoyed around the midway point of the meal. But we enjoyed so many of the wines that we asked for a list of the ones we’d had during our visit and the ever-helpful staff provided us with a formal print off of each course and each wine that came with it – amazing! and we found the Muscadet available to buy for £12 a bottle, not bad going!
I suppose the only element not enjoyed during our meal was the blue cheese on our cheese course. The missus had encouraged (goaded) me into being adventurous with the selection, so we went for one of the stronger blues in the cheese cart, poor decision. It was to strong for me, nothing wrong with the cheese itself, just the moron on the other end who wasn’t up to the challenge of eating it set by myself forced by my girlfriend!
All in all, a thoroughly amazing experience, the best 3 hours of eating and drinking in my life to date and would happily go back for more. The only thing stopping me going back is the knowledge that there is a world of Michelin Star restaurants out there, so why stick to one? a new challenge has been set, eat more Michelin Star food!