A walk down Memory Lane: London restaurant reminiscences

I recently stumbled across this web page, which brought back lots of memories.

It's dated 1996/97, but seems to me to be largely from around ten years earlier.

Anton at the Dorchester. (Since he did that television programme with the Sheffield dustman, I've only ever been able to think of him as "Anton", and it has to be said in a Sheffield accent.)

The Connaught before Gordon Ramsay and Hartnell destroyed it. Odd it doesn't mention the glory of glories that was Terrine Connaught.  Now that Gordon Ramsay Holdings have quit, it would be nice if it could re-open as a classic old style French restaurant.  While we don't want the heavy flour-laden sauces of yesteryear, there must surely be room for some of the classics of Escoffier's cuisine?  Perhaps the more appropriate place to look for that would be the Savoy, home to Escoffier for so many years.

I never went to 90 Park Lane before Nico Ladenis took over, a long time after this piece was written: at the time of this piece, Nico has just moved (unsuccessfully, we know with hindsight) Chez Nico to Shinfield.

Boulestin. Boulestin! Boulestin! Now that's a real blast from the past. Along with the À l'Ecu de France on Jermyn Street, which it survived IIRC, one of the last of the grandes dames of classic French cuisine in London. In its latter days (referred to on that web page) it had shaken off Escoffier, but as I recall it then did not last long and was soon a Pizza Hut. At least L'Ecu de France (which itself had survived Mme Prunier's St James' restaurant and Le Coq d'Or, which became Langan's Brasserie) was spared that ignominious fate. IIRC McDonalds was interested in its Jermyn St site, but planning was turned down, and now it (or rather the old bar area - presumably the rest lies mothballed behind) is a Church's shoes shop. There is a wonderful story that when L'Ecu finally closed its doors, MI5 had to nip and remove all their microphones hidden in the banquettes, and that when they did so, they found all the KGB microphones in there too.

Waltons. Now the first of the Itsu chain. Then it was what I always assumed a Chelsea brothel would look like.

Interesting comment on Le Poulbot (for the benefit of younger readers, a quondam Roux outpost in the City) that "Wines are Paris-priced".   Were wine lists generally not as aggressively priced as they usually are these days?

Guy Mouilleron's Ma Cuisine on Walton Street. A lovely little restaurant: charming, intimate and with excellent food.  I still remember a fabulous lamb dish I had there once with exquisite pea tartlets.

Poon's of Covent Garden! I don't recall ever eating there, but used to go to the Leicester St and Lisle St Poons. Are they still going? I remember walking down King St, Covent Garden past Poons once, when a Franco-Italian ma
ître d' type came rushing out to say how nice it was to see me again, Mr Stevenson. I've still no idea who he was.   Perhaps it's an indicator of when you eat out at too many restaurants, that maîtres d' can spot you on the street, rush out to say hello and you don't know who they are?

Rue St Jacques - in Charlotte St (now the site of the well regarded Rasa Samudra, a Keralan fish restaurant). I only went there a couple of times. Top notch food, but damn expensive and there was something about the place I just didn't like.

Ménage à Trois. From the days when Antony Worral-Thompson was a chef, and a pretty fine one too, rather than the media whore he is now. Starters and puddings, but no intercourse went the strapline. This was the first (and last) restaurant, where I've ever had a whole truffle - IIRC wrapped in ham, baked in puff pastry and then served with a truffle sauce. But I might be wrong about the sauce. When you think about it, 
Ménage à Trois, with its small plates of small food was about 20 years ahead of its time: think Maze, Le Cercle and the proliferation of this-and-that-style tapas restaurants that litter London's streets now.

I vaguely remember the English House part-owned by Michael Smith (TV food presenter of the 70s and maybe 80s), but I don't remember anything much about it: perhaps I never went. Was it the same English House that Richard Corrigan was involved in (at the same time as the Lindsay House), and which later became Rasoi Vineet Bhatia? Or was that the English Garden?

It's interesting to reflect on the remarkably numerous survivors of that list:

maybe others.
Some of the others continue, but in such radically different forms (Gordon Ramsay at Claridges is a quite different beast to the Claridges restaurant for example) that they can hardly be described as survivors: rather the property in which they are housed has survived.  You might question some of those I include as survivors: for example, I wonder if Langan's Brasserie can ever really be said to have survived Peter Langan's and Richard Shepherd's departure from this world?


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Last updated: 30 December 2008