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Jonathan Day

Restaurant "1837" at Brown's Hotel

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Yesterday to “1837”, the upscale restaurant at Brown’s Hotel, for a business dinner.

Our welcome was distinctly chilly. We arrived at 6:55 pm (our client, who had chosen 1837, had requested a 7 pm start). There was nobody at the hotel door to greet us; inside, we found an empty corridor, with unmarked doors to the left and the right. We discovered that the right-hand door led to a rather untidy lounge and bar, and the left hand door to the restaurant.

We walked into the restaurant and were quickly sent away. “We aren’t ready to open yet,” said a server. “You can’t wait in here. You can wait in the lounge.” We found a table in the lounge; it was covered with the remains of someone’s tea and drinks. After awhile a waiter arrived. “Would you like me to clean this table?” No, we prefer looking at dirty cups and dishes.

After a few moments, we went back into the restaurant. Now it was open, and we were shown to a table. The tables are far apart, giving the impression of spaciousness and the possibility of a quiet and private conversation. Unfortunately, some quirk in the acoustics of the room meant that the talk from a group on the other side of the room was transmitted straight to us, as if there were a hidden microphone linking the tables.

A waiter arrived with menus. “We have two specials: Scottish lobster, grilled or Thermidor, and rack of lamb. And smoked salmon from the trolley.” He swept away. The menus at “1837” are large and heavy, but the print is small, so selecting is clumsy and uncomfortable. There is a carte plus specials varying by the day – lamb, beef, and so on. Eventually a drinks waiter arrived to offer us aperitifs and bring the wine list, which is equally large and clumsy. It was a good list: broad, deep, and, for London, not unreasonably priced. We found a 1997 Cote Rotie that opened up in an interesting way, starting with a lot of fruit but then becoming surprisingly complex.

My starter was “asparagus, truffles, mesclun salad.” It was acceptable, adequate, but no more. There was a pleasant mustardy dressing; boring salad leaves; a few oily slices of truffle; and fair-to-middling asparagus. A colleague ordered smoked salmon, which arrived whole on a trolley and was carved by a waiter with great flourishes of a knife, but which disrupted the discussion as the waiter asked about garnishes and plating.

As a main, I had the grilled lobster. This was served split, but with the meat not really removed from the tail. This was not a problem, but the claws had been cracked in a perfunctory way, but there was no way to open them to extract the meat. Nor had I been served tools for lobster dissection. So I quietly asked a waiter to finish the job of opening up the crustacean.

“Of course, sir, that would be my pleasure.” Another trolley wheeled to the table, more plates brought, another waiter came forward, another conversation interrupted. “Would you like me to do something with this lobster?” said the second waiter. Several impolite responses came to mind, but I said, “please remove the rest of the meat from the claws and shell.” He did this by grabbing the lobster between two napkins and wrestling it to a fall, leaving me with a small plate full of meat shreds (and, as it turned out when I tasted them, shell fragments).

The plates were cleared, and another trolley was rolled up to the table. “Would you like cheese before your pudding?” No, I said, but I would prefer cheese instead of a sweet. Could you bring the dessert menu?” “No, please order your cheese now.” The selection wasn’t bad, though it wasn’t overwhelming: Stinking Bishop, Epoisses, various chevres, Stilton, Cashel Blue, etc., in fair condition. A colleague also asked for cheese.

It then took 5 minutes for the dessert menu to arrive, and we sat there, looking across increasingly aromatic plates of cheese and waiting for the other two diners to order and then receive their desserts.

They cheerfully prepared a mint tea (“Fresh mint or peppermint?”) and brought coffees and port.

I left thinking that this place could have been good, but that well-meaning but incompetent service, from start to finish had left me with little desire to return.


Edited by Jonathan Day (log)

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Eventually a drinks waiter arrived to offer us aperitifs and bring the wine list, which is equally large and clumsy. It was a good list: broad, deep, and, for London, not unreasonably priced. We found a 1997 Cote Rotie that opened up in an interesting way, starting with a lot of fruit but then becoming surprisingly complex.

A couple of years ago, they won the wine spectator award for the largest "by the glass" wine list in Europe.

Roughly at the same time I had glasses of 1994 Ridge Montebello & 1994 Opus one served in big riedels for not bad prices.

Never had the urge to eat there

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“No, please order your cheese now.”

"Please be f*cking off", is there another more appropriate response that I don't know about? :biggrin:

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Any reason you didn't go for the tasting menus? They're by far the best way to go at Browns. At 40-ish quid for 7+ courses some of the best value in London.

Is Andrew Turner still chef? Bit worried about the place cos I saw Browns was taken over by one of the hotel chains recently (savoy group?) - bit worried they might tinker with the tasting menu format at 1837

J

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Rocco Forte has just brought the hotel and it is already listed on his website. Chef Andrew Turner has either left or is about to leave to open Bentleys Hotel and Angelo Maresca joins from the Savoy on Monday :

Maresca joins 1837.

as Andrew Turner leaves.

Rocco Forte Hotels.

The restaurant is to be refurbished and served traditional british food and have "Grill" somewhere in its new name, perhaps taking up where the Savoy Grill left off?

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Any reason you didn't go for the tasting menus? They're by far the best way to go at Browns.  At 40-ish quid for 7+ courses some of the best value in London.

If there was a tasting menu, I didn't notice it. In any event it would have been completely out of place at a dinner like this, which was mostly about discussion and only incidentally about the food and wine. First, people don't eat all that much at these dinners -- in fact, there were eyebrows raised when I whispered to the waiter to deal with my lobster. Strict protocol would have dictated nibbling at whatever was easily available and leaving the rest.

Even if people had been enthusiastic eaters, the disruption from waiters (especially the bumbling ones at this place) bringing dishes and taking them away would have been inappropriate.

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If Turner was still around, I'm sure they would have been offering his "grazing menus" as they are his signature style. They will be offered at the Bentley apparently. b

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Wow, Jonathan, that sounds like a truly appalling service experience :shock: Dare I ask if you paid, and if so how much tip you left ?

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Fortunately a colleague took the check, so I never saw it, or the tip she added, if any. My guess is that the tab for four people was just over £300.

And no, I didn't complain. The client left, happy, unaware as far as I know that the service had been unusually bad. This is London, after all, where the lights go out, the trains don't run, and people do strange things to you in restaurants.

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