Photo: David Loftus
By Jonathan Hatchman, Food Editor, @TLE_Food
Since opening its doors in 2003, The Wolseley has become a celebrated Central London dining institution. Taking the place of a 1920s car showroom, The Wolseley Car Company, which was later acquired by Barclays Bank. Perched beside The Ritz Hotel, on Piccadilly, the restaurant has become so famous that there’s a downstairs shop selling all types of merchandise that’s emblazoned with the restaurant’s logo, as well as celebrated food writer A.A. Gill’s book ‘Breakfast At The Wolseley’.
Inside, the décor is reminiscent of New York’s Grand Central Station, it’s almost as cavernous, just as busy, and there’s even a grand clock that reminds diners of exactly how many minutes remain until the restaurant needs to reclaim their table. What’s more, the restaurant is obviously so prestigious that each diner has to pay a £2 cover charge just for the privilege of sitting within the venue. As for the menu, it evokes James Joyce’s unabridged Ulysses. It’s so vast, in fact, that you better off arriving towards the end of the lunch service, just in order to have enough time to skim through the whole collection before your dinner reservation. However, unlike many of the local competing restaurants, The Wolseley does manage to excel with their fridge of ingredients that’s probably bigger than most small supermarkets.
For the lunch and dinner service, there’s an à la carte menu as well as an all-day and café menu, and as far as price is concerned, mains and Entrées from the lunch and dinner section range from the likes of The Wolseley Hamburger (£12.75) and their Soufflé Suisse (£11.25) up to the more substantial selection of Steaks that vary between the late ‘20s and early ‘30s. A Veal Chop with Paris Mushrooms and Sage (£38.00) and Fish such as Turbot with Béarnaise Sauce (£32.50) are also available as some of the most luxurious mains. Elsewhere, the restaurant also offers their own Plâts Du Jour, daily specials, each priced at £19.50, with a Pot-Roast of Breton Lamb gracing the menu upon our recent visit. In search of a light lunch, my girlfriend and I both settle for the optional large portion of starters including chopped Chicken and Tarragon Salad (£14.75) and the venue’s famous Eggs Benedict (£14.50).
A gargantuan bowl of Chicken Salad that’s accompanied by shredded Lettuce, fresh Peas, Avocado, Broad Beans, Trevise and a light dressing is plentiful, although prepared in a way that’s very easy to devour. The Eggs Benedict, however, are the real jewel in The Wolseley’s crown. £14.50 for two English Muffins, Poached Eggs, a drizzle of Hollandaise and a couple of slices of Ham does sound expensive, yet the dish is quite possibly one of the tastiest I’ve eaten in years. Beneath the rich creamy Hollandaise that’s topped with a smattering of chopped Chives and Cayenne Pepper, two perfectly cooked Eggs lie, allowing the diner to pierce the rich amber Yolks that flood down onto the well-seasoned Ham and gorgeous fluffy Muffins. The result is sensational, needless to say.
Unsurprisingly, the desserts menu is also extremely vast, allowing our delicious mains to settle before we finally read through, make our choices and eventually tuck in. A wide selection of cakes and Ice Cream Coupes are available, although we both struggle to resist the Passion Fruit Meringue Pie, and greedily order one each. The gooey Meringue is nice enough, although would’ve been considerably more exciting had it been warmed through before leaving the kitchen. The Passion Fruit filling, however, is remarkably sweet and leaves a potent cloying aftertaste: a true shame. As for the rest of our visit, minus our underwhelming dessert, the experience on offer at The Wolseley is delightful. I’ll be sure to return very soon, striving to sample some more of the colossal menu, no doubt.
The Wolseley can be found at 160 Piccadilly, London, W1J 9EB.