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Help - dinner near St James

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Parents across for a couple of days next week, and taking us out for dinner Wednesday. They're staying in St James and had booked a table at Quaglino's, as Dad had walked past a couple of times and thought it looked small and intimate (!) and it's got two red forks in his Michelin, which apparently means that it's 'particularly welcoming'. I swiftly disabused him of its diminutive size and intimacy, to which he suggested that I book something instead.

First thought was L'Oranger, but haven't been for years and concerned that it might get a bit pricey. Second thought was Le Caprice but also haven't been for years and concerned that it's not particularly welcoming (for non-regulars).

Having been lurking for a long time, I know what an opinionated bunch you all are (although less so without Simon M's input), so can anyone either comment on the two choices noted, ideally based on recent experience, or suggest something else.

Would really like to keep it to £300-400 for dinner, with a modest attack at the wine list.


Edited by StewieMac (log)
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How about Luciano? It's one of the restaurants under the MPW banner. Had dinner there about a month ago - good, clean flavours, simple Italian food although I found the service to be pretty arsey.

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Don't know where your folks are from but you could consider the Stafford Hotel. It has a nice bar - you could always pop in there for a drink first and check out the restaurant. They have an intriquing museum of WW2 artefacts in the cellars so if you ask them nicely they will usually show you around if they haven't got a private function down there.

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Wolesey is everything Quags should be

The recently much beloved arbutus is a ten minute walk from st james up shaftesbury ave



Helen and I have done Wolesy twice and back Jon 100%


Stephen Bonner


"who needs a wine list when you can get pissed on dessert" Gordon Ramsey Kitchen Nightmares 2005


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I've had a couple of good experiences at Fiore in St James Street. It's what was the original Petrus so its still that long, narrow room but the Italian food really is very good and the service is very switched on. It would meet you budgetary demands as well.

I'm interested by your comments about Le Caprice. I've never been but have been to the Ivy (both part of the same group of course) a couple of times and had perfet service both times and never felt second best in the celeb packed dining room. Do they do things differently at Caprice?

Edited by Andy Lynes (log)
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I'm interested by your comments about Le Caprice. I've never been but have been to the Ivy (both part of the same group of course) a couple of times and had perfet service both times and never felt second best in the celeb packed dining room. Do they do things differently at Caprice?

I went to Le Caprice (over a year ago now though) and found the service perfect with no distinction between celeb and non celeb - Bill Clinton and family even turned up and it still didn't miss a beat.

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Many thanks for all the comments.

Sorry, it was a crap brief to begin with, as I should have mentioned that:

a) parents are from the UK but will be 'across' from France, so not really over-interested in showing them 'trad' English stuff, and

b) they will be lunching at their club on Wednesday, so think that Wilton's might be a bit similar for the evening (nice thought for the future though).

My comments on Le Caprice were not meant to be comdemnation of the service, just that in the past I found it very 'buzzy', all hard surfaces in black and white, so not quite as intimate as I wanted. However, on reflection we're going to try either the Ivy or there, as they are spot on in terms of food/price/formality. If we can't get in either then we'll try the Wolesey.

And will post back with the experience.


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So, he wants small and intimate in St James's, values friendly service, and has a trad French leaning (as evidenced by using Michelin as his guide)? Meanwhile, you want proficient food that comes at a price that won't create communal alarm?

May I suggest playing safe with Boudin Blanc?

Edit: ah - didn't see your last message that they're over from France. That means scrubbing the Boudin recommendation: while it's fine by London standards, they'll be appalled.

As for simple Italian food without the addition of arsey service, there's nothing much wrong with the unpromisingly named Franko's. For somewhere uniquely London, Inn The Park is okay (although like all Oliver Peyton-owned restaurants the level of service can be dreadful, for explicable reasons.)

Caprice is still a bugger to book, but once you're through the door the front-of-house remains as egalitarian as ever. You get the same treatment whether you come down the road from the Ritz or down the stairs from the brothel that shares its building. I've never been knocked out by the food though, which seems to hedge towards the kind of blandness favoured by business lunchers and slebs.

Edited by naebody (log)
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If The Ivy is on the cards, I've always found Rules on Maiden Lane an easier place to dine. The Wolesey is very nice, but the pace of the room is quite brisk.

If you want to try somewhere really, uh... special?.... perhaps this quiet little palce on Jermyn Street. :wink:

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Update - couldn't get into Le Caprice or The Ivy, so ended up in the upstairs grill room at Bentley's. Couldn't find anything about it here but it had various good reviews when it opened (although several mentioned hit-and-miss service).

Upstairs is split into two dining rooms, around 30 covers in each side - quite formal, with starched tableclothes and napkins and waiters in aprons.

We'd already had a bottle of fizz elsewhere so no apertifs - three types of bread offered, two of which were dreadful semi-stale baguette. Fortunately the third was the home made Irish soda bread which was excellent (more was requested and delivered to mop up juices from the starters).

Starters chosen were baby squid stuffed with chorizo and feta, sauted and then served in a cooking juices sauce with lots of parsley (my choice and really excellent - I was the soda bread requester), duck-egg omelette with cured salmon (I got a teeny taste and it was very nice, rich but light at the same time - plate wiped clean) and a carpaccio of smoked haddock, which was a let down. We decided that it was probably an ill-conceived dish in the first place.

All stuck with fish for the main course - simply grilled dover sole (three thumbs up from the 'not sure about fish' eater), special of turbot, sea bream and royal fish pie. The three 'straight' fishes were all proclaimed great (I didn't get any), while the fish pie was a bit rich for me, consisting mostly of lobster, scallop and prawn.

Puds were sherry trifle (not very trifley, being more like an eton mess but with creme anglais instead of the meringue, but v v tasty), chocolate pot and cherry clafoutis (don't think that it was called that on the menu but that's what we got). Cheeses were unexceptional apart from Mrs Kirkham's Lancashire, although the oat cookies were excellent.

Prices were not bad considering the surroundings - around a tenner for starters, around 20 for mains and 6.50 for the puds. Unfortunately a couple of bottles of a nice Chablis doubled the bill, but I wasn't paying.

I can understand why the comments about service were made when it opened. It's bedding in now, but still a little too much standing around, and then getting in each other's way. Certainly not a downer on the evening though.

We'd go back.

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I keep on popping into the downstairs bar at odd times for a swift half or two and haven't yet been back to eat upstairs (had dinner at the oyster bar when they first opened and Corrigan was still shucking the oysters himself). I must prioritise a return visit.

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(had dinner at the oyster bar when they first opened and Corrigan was still shucking the oysters himself).

He still is about the place - had dinner downstairs twice recently and both times he was around - not actually shucking but chatting to customers about what they thought about the food and just generally. The bar has a great atmosphere.

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