A restaurant should do what it says on the tin. That makes me sound horribly unspontaneous, but if its name says something overt about its cuisine, I believe this should be represented pretty thoroughly on a restaurant’s menu.
Eateries that stick to this basic rule include Hix’s Oyster Bar, Burger King and – despite their inauthentic liberality with parmesan – Jamie’s Italian. But at the Fleming’s Grill in Mayfair, with its lunch menu of five starters, six mains and myriad desserts, there was only one dish remotely involving a grill: the chargrilled bavette steak. Neither I nor my companion had the steak, so the joint’s name immediately left me a bit disorientated. I didn’t expect a menu exclusively composed of charred fare hot off the griddle. But the name was misleading. Nuff said. We actually had a lovely lunch.
Set on Mayfair’s Half Moon Street, just off Piccadilly, Fleming’s opened in 1851 but has undergone renovations in recent years. I arrived to a tasteful monochrome reception and was escorted down to the restaurant. It was refurbished last June and done so stylishly, with clean lines, mirrors, reds and fawn. Sadly, though, this doesn’t change the sorry fact that summer is approaching and it’s a dark, sultry basement space. For this reason, Fleming’s Grill arguably makes better evening dining for hotel guests and those seeking a quiet central supper.
That said, one of the Grill’s selling points is the bargain express lunch: £10 for one of three mains (meat, fish, vegetarian options) and a glass of house wine. Not bad for a quick sit-down bite with a colleague, or indeed that client whose business doesn’t warrant Langan’s (where, incidentally, my companion – ok, my mother – recently ate a pricey but mediocre lunch, lending the Fleming’s Express Lunch even more appeal).
The only white wines available by the glass were Italian. I have an unfair aversion to Italian white wine, based on the unforgettable burn of Pinot Grigio hangovers as a student. Luckily there was a very nice half bottle of Muscadet for marginally more. This and the food were charmingly deployed to our table by attentive staff. I couldn’t fault the service.
We started with a sweet salad of heritage beetroots, pancetta, chilli and Lancashire Bomb cheese. I didn’t get much of the chilli but was glad for it, instead enjoying the watercress with which it came. Our other starter, ravioli of wild mushrooms, smoked red onion and thyme butter had bold flavours (thyme is always a winner in my book), but was ever so slightly too doughy. For mains, we took the plaice with (more) beetroot, golden raisin and caper butter and a new dish of trout on pearl barley with pea, broad bean and mint. The latter was great – light and fresh – but the plaice came rather swimming in butter. If the Fleming’s Grill had grilled it, it would quickly have been improved.
I’m very glad we had puddings because they were outstanding. Were every course as good as the sweets, this place would make wizard hotel dining. Peanut butter parfait was accompanied by chocolate soil (texturally reminiscent of the mud pies that I made, and ate, as a kid – crunchy but molten), hazelnut praline and edible flowers. It looked thrown together by fairies. The Apple Charlotte with custard and brandy ice cream was great comfort food with its traditional flavours, yet somehow weightless.
Reeling from the high of pudding, I left Fleming’s Grill with a good impression. At just over fifty quid for three courses each and half a bottle of wine, it’s a fine deal and the food – though largely not grilled – is thoughtful, making a welcome break from stuffy hotel cuisine of yore.