When Yorkshire-born Shaun Rankin, of the one Michelin star Jersey restaurant Ormer, announced that he was opening a London outpost at the 165-year-old Flemings Hotel in Mayfair late last year it was met with a great deal of anticipation on the capital’s ever evolving food scene, and whilst it’s hard to keep abreast of all the latest new restaurants, this was one that went firmly to the top of my list.
Ormer Mayfair is located in the hotel’s basement, in a space that was formerly Fleming’s Grill, but has been completely re-styled as part of an extensive £15 million top to bottom refurbishment of the property located on Half Moon Street, on the corner of Curzon Street. Possessing a sophisticated, elegant feel with sultry lighting from Art Deco table lamps come the evening, the long room is almost akin to dining on a luxury train, while the ambiance remains decidedly buzzy thanks to an upbeat, relaxed front of house who are happy to share a laugh and a joke with customers, including Restaurant Manager Agnieszka Josko who hails from two Michelin star The Greenhouse and Hélène Darroze, besides previously working with Rankin when he was at Bohemia in Jersey.
The designers have achieved a glamorous but in no way stuffy environment; no table linens in sight, but ultra shiny veneered tables that are reminiscent of a 1930s Fred Astaire film and would be just the thing for tap-dancing on. Things were certainly heading that way when Head Sommelier Andreas Rosendal (previously of Michelin-starred Brasserie Chavot) introduced himself and the champagne trolley crammed full of everything from champion English sparkling wines to Cristal. What did we fancy, “white or rose?” Always white and always champagne for me. The Devaux NV “Cuvée D” in fact, featuring that recognisable hint of buttered brioche emanating from the Chardonnay grape, along with notes of blossom and vanilla (£82 a bottle).
Caribbean-born Kerth Gumbs is the head chef here, previously senior sous chef at the Arts Club on Dover Street, and it’s a step up that will no doubt find him pushing for his first Michelin star. The recent trend for classic, comforting cuisine shows no sign of slowing down in London, and the menu here is all about heart-warming, bugger-the-calories kind of dishes, whilst paying tribute to Rankin’s lifelong passion for fish and seafood, much of which is sourced directly from Jersey including fresh lobster, crab, oysters, and hand-dived scallops.
A single, perfectly-crafted lobster ravioli with ultra fine pasta was my starter of choice, generously filled with sweet, succulent lobster and salmon, surrounded by a rich crab and tomato bisque fragrant with lemongrass, and topped with a Thai-inspired fresh shallot, puffed rice and coriander salad. It was a precise, beautiful dish that had classical techniques at its core, only with exotic, vibrant notes that showcased the luxurious lobster far more than the standard list of ingredients ever could, not to mention Rankin’s clever yet respectful ideas and Gumbs’s deft touch.
For main my husband didn’t need much persuading to share the côte de boeuf for two (£75), and after a considerable wait this arrived temptingly presented in a copper sauté pan, topped with a flourish of wild mushrooms and intense beer-cooked shallots, with a frothy béarnaise, a rich beef jus and triple-cooked chips alongside. However much our two companions were both raving about the perfectly cooked Dover sole with a smoked salmon, potato and leek risotto, they were still drooling at the sight of the beef like two bloodhounds, and giving them a taste only worsened their salivating as I carved the juicy rare beef and dipped mouthful after mouthful into the duo of sauces, along with the crispiest, naughtiest of chips. There will be some diners, with a heartier appetite than myself, who will be loathe to share this côte de boeuf and I don’t blame them one jot. The Sicilian Il Barroccio, recommended to us by the sommelier went hand in glove.
Whilst we were enjoying the celebratory ambiance, a number of “Happy Birthdays” having being sung at various tables by the waiters, an unusual occurrence in a fine dining establishment, perhaps this held up proceedings, for the wait between each course was lengthy. If our experience wasn’t a one off then the service will certainly need to be ramped up a gear in the days to come, for it would be a shame if the food, admittedly faultless, wasn’t awarded the acclaim it deserves. My dessert of chocolate brownie sealed my high opinion of the fare, as although it wasn’t a recognisable brownie, for dedicated chocolate lovers like myself it was much better. A rich mousse-like chocolate torte with a dense brownie-style base and dots of salted caramel, it worked a treat with the pure, cleansing milk ice cream and crunchy caramel popcorn; finished with gold leaf as if that all wasn’t decadent enough.
This was a meal designed for serious foodies who love the classics and don’t like them tampered with. I would like to go back and sample the eight course tasting menu (£75) with wine pairings, yet it is more than possible to dine here without blowing your brains. As you would expect, à la carte prices are distinctly Mayfair, yet there is a reasonable wine list with bottles around the £20s mark (right up to a 1990 Pétrus at £4,500), while the three course set lunch menu for £29.50 is a great way to sample the Ormer experience. Whatever your budget you’ll dine like a king, and if you have to take a king out for dinner this wouldn’t be a bad choice.
Ormer Mayfair at Flemings Mayfair, 7-12 Half Moon St, London W1J 7BH, for more information and reservations please visit the website.