Hidden off Berkeley Square down Bruton Place is one of the late Queen Elizabeth II’s favourite French restaurants, Bellamys in Mayfair. I had never dined there and was delighted when one of my senior colleagues decided to treat me to dinner. There she was sat resplendent at the bar holding fort with a cocktail when I arrived.
I was immediately relieved of my coat and umbrella whilst the receptionist welcomed me and took a phone call at the same time. I thought about my busy day and how deft I was at multitasking, but she was on another level. Luigi Burgio, the Manager, greeted me as a regular customer which helped set the scene for a special dining experience and ushered us to a corner table.
Normally I am the host, but my colleague insisted that I behave as a good guest, so I sat regally on the banquet. The first thing that I noticed was the upholstery. It was firm and very supportive of the back, and for once I didn’t need a pillow or be seated on a chair. The waiter was very attentive and sparkling mineral water was chosen.
The restaurant is a calm oasis, tables are positioned to afford privacy and the walls were full of interesting art and prints. The mirrors positioned beside us allowed you a real time reflection of guest’s arrival and departure without having to look away.
Gavin Rankin, the owner then arrived and extended us a warm welcome. He stopped by all the tables. I liked his style and genuine care for diners. I learned that his nonagenarian mother still makes the chocolate pudding for the restaurant, and I was salivating at the prospect.
The menus arrived. It was very comprehensive, and I noted some favourites including, Apple, Endive and Walnut gratin; Salad of Artichoke Heart & Haricot Verts; Ravioles de Royans; Smoked Eel Mousse; and Entrecôte frites. For a moment, it reminded me of my student days in France, when ordering Steak frites. I only discovered after enjoying the meal, that it was in fact horse meat. It was therefore reassuring to read that the Entrecôte was Baynards Park Beef and not from one of the Royal fillies.
We both elected for the Table D’Hôte, which translates as Table of the Host. Three courses were priced at £35 which struck me as extremely good value.
We both decided to select the Soupe Paysanne, it was a cold night, the hearty bowl was hot, filling and delicious. After a short break Chicken Breast a l’estragon with mashed potato arrived. It was exceptional and very tender. The potato soaked up the delicious tarragon infused sauce on my plate. When I had run out of potato, I helped myself to my hosts chips. The chips were some of the best I have tasted in London. I continued eating chips. The chopped salad du jour was a perfect accompaniment to our main courses. The sommelier suggested a pairing of red and white wines and my lips still found time to enjoy the lingering after taste of tarragon.
You cannot ignore the pudding menu and we both went off piste ignoring Crème Catalane. My host chose salted caramel ice cream which was served soft in a frosted glass. I elected to go for the Ile Flottante, so that I could return to the chocolate pudding another time. Yes, I did try the ice cream and it was sensational. My host had enjoyed Ile Flottante before, so by the time I had tried to stop eating her ice cream, I was ready to go to floating heaven. The Ile Flottante was sensational, better than in France. This famous dessert consists of meringue floating on crème anglaise. It was so light and airy.
We declined coffee, tea and digestives and then a bowl of smooth milk chocolates arrived. Being a gentleman, I did offer to the pay the bill before being chastised and beginning my lonely walk of shame back to transport home. I was sure that I heard a Rossignol (a French Nightingale) sing in Berkeley Square.