What: British dining near Charing Cross
Where: Grand Buildings, The Strand
Why You Should Go There: If you’re after British dining but can’t justify places like The Wolseley.
Favourite Thing We Ate: Parmesan custard with anchovy toast
You’d be forgiven for thinking you’d stepped into a version of The Wolseley mixed with the Savoy when you walked into The Strand Dining Rooms, albeit a more modern, causal version. It features the same classic décor emulating iconic Pullman train carriages, shares an equally enviable London position – as the name suggests on The Strand and yet it has a way to go to reach the same prestige.
Chef Director Mark Sargeant has recently joined the team and is serving up a classic British menu with the likes of soused Cornish mackerel, wild garlic soup and Dedham Vale ale braised short rib and ox cheeks.
We got going with a couple of Hor D’ouerves , when they arrived I looked up the definition of hor d’ouerves just to check I hadn’t spent my life thinking the wrong thing as I had always assumed they’re about the size of canapés, no I was right – these however were the size of starters, big starters come to that. So a word of warning, unless you’ve been doing hard manual labour (which let’s face it in London is unlikely, unless you include typing in that category) or are entering into a ‘how much can you eat contest?’ order hor d’ouerves or starters or if bot then share them. Parmesan custard with anchovy toast might sound like the sort of thing that was dunked over an unsuspecting celebrity back in the heyday of children’s television, but actually it was a more like a smooth, creamy and intensely thick cheese butter which spread over small triangles of salty anchovy toast worked wonderfully.
Bone marrow toast was rich and oh so moreish if a little dripping with fat, but I heartily recommend. Mussels were a little hit and miss, some were like little mouthfuls of seaside nostalgia, others were like mouthfuls of slightly off salty seawater, they were said to come with bacon and cider, bacon yes, but I was hard pressed to find the cider.
We followed this up with a pretty substantial fish pie which was packed full of fish and had beautifully smooth mash potato with a slight crisp top, but it could have done with a lift from herbs or another flavour to cut through the fish. That said pair it with the Gavi di Gavi, Morgassi Superiore 2012 for a summer supper.
To finish was a quintessential sticky toffee pudding which was good, it was sticky and it had toffee so of course it was going to be a winner but it was rather outshone by a lemon cheesecake with Earl Grey prunes, which was fragrant and light.
I can see The Strand Dining Rooms appealing to tourists and diners who want to enjoy some hearty, typically British dishes. I think for Londoners it still has a little way to go impress, but I think with Mark Sargeant at the helm it’ll get there.