On a London sleepover a couple of weekends ago we were invited to dine at Angelus Restaurant in Lancaster Gate, just north of Hyde Park. It is owned by Thierry Tomasin who, in previous lives, was Head Sommelier at Le Gavroche and General Manager at Gordon Ramsay’s Aubergine. Thierry really, really knows about good French food and wine. It boded well for us.
We had decided to drag Master and Miss Gallivant along (in fairness they didn’t take much dragging) slightly against my better judgement. This is fairly fine dining, after all. And whilst I do (kind of) trust them to be well behaved and not wipe their noses on the tablecloths, and whilst they are also reasonably adventurous when it comes to things culinary, I did wonder if the food might be a trifle fussy for them.
We were welcomed by the delightful Maitre d’, Olivier into what seems just like a smart Parisian brasserie – all dark wood, red leather banquettes and art nouveau prints and mirrors.
The menu is small but thoughtful and delightfully unfussy – lots of classic dishes ramped up a little. After a salmon amuse bouche, Master Gallivant and I had the twice baked cheese soufflé – feather light and served warm, with the wonderful contrast of a tangy parmesan ice cream and a little crunch from celery, apple and nuts – all the flavours of a Waldorf salad in fact.
Mr Gallivant opted for the scallops, served with a lobster tempura and crushed minted summer peas. He declared them ‘just right’. And Miss Gallivant rather bravely ordered hay cured and roasted veal sweetbreads. I did realise that she was blissfully unaware of what they were – we told her afterwards, of course, and enjoyed the look on her face (I know – we’re mean).
Main course for me was succulent Black Bream, served with crushed potatoes, samphire and a zingy lemon ‘marmalade’ on the side. Mr Gallivant went for the liquorice baked salmon with black garlic puree and wild fennel, and the kids were the adventurous ones yet again, both plumping for the pigeon, roasted and served pink.
There were declarations of horror at the sight of the tiny leg with claw attached. Miss Gallivant was determined to finish the lot, though, declaring that the pigeon had given its life for her so she was going to make sure she enjoyed it. Wise words. The pigeon was accompanied by a white andouillette. Olivier came over at one point and declared ‘Ah, your children, they are such brave eaters. There are not many children who would eat andouillette’. Ahem.
‘What is andouillette, Mum?’ asked Miss Gallivant. She was half way through eating it so it seemed a bit late to tell her that it was made from a pig’s intestine. ‘It’s just sausage, darling’ I said soothingly. Some things it’s better not to know!
The decision about pudding is always a difficult one. Not so here. The kids love plain old ice cream. Mr Gallivant and I had the shared assiette of desserts – a little (or actually quite a lot!) of everything – a chocolate delice with almond ice cream, a summer fruit jelly with sable, mascarpone and champagne sorbet, a grilled white peach with crushed amaretti, apricot and thyme puree and white chocolate ice cream…I could go on.
Then it was fresh mint tea and petit fours…which of course I ate (why oh why can I never resist them?).
Now I cannot do a review of this restaurant without mentioning the excellent wine list – it is extensive and interesting with something at every price point – from £22 up to a whopping £3240 (a bottle of Bordeaux Pomerol Le Pin 2005 in case you’re wondering). Our excellent sommelier (who, incidentally, was doing his last shift before departing to work at Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner at the Mandarin Oriental) recommended a smooth, dry white Languedoc wine to accompany our starter and main course and, after pud we sampled two dessert wines, including a more-ish honey sweet Sauternes. He then took us for a sneaky peek at their rather impressive cellar.
It was a memorable meal, the service was attentive and charming and it felt like a real treat for us all. Is Angelus’ a la carte dinner menu suitable for families? I would say yes, so long as your children are willing to eat ‘grown up’ food. Is it suitable for a romantic dinner a deux. Ooh la la – a definite yes.
* Starters range from £9.50-£18, main courses £19-£28, desserts £9-£13. For more details visit www.angelusrestaurant.co.uk