Alyn Williams at the Westbury
37 Conduit Street
London, W1S 2YF
Tel. 0207 183 6426
Food type: Modern French
Nearest tube: Bond Street/ Oxford Street
Website: Alyn Williams
The summer heat is still pretty unrelenting but I had to nip in to London for the sole purpose of having a morning suit tailored. Our wedding is not until next year, but I do like to be organised and not leave things to the last minute. When it comes to tailoring, there was only one destination I had in mind – Saville Row. I had an appointment for 10:30 with Dege & Skinner which would give me plenty of time until our lunch booking at nearby Alyn Williams at the Westbury for 13:15. Surprisingly, the whole process went very smoothly and by 11:30 I was done and dusted, with my measurements taken and a (chunky) deposit paid. So off we went to Selfridges
to kill some time for a bit of shopping before our lunch.
We arrived at the restaurant 15 minutes early, having decided that any more time spent shopping was a bad idea for our wallets. We were warmly greeted by our hostess and led to our table – a large one in the corner with a comfortable sofa. I had booked via their website using Opentable which offered the tasting menu at lunch with a glass of bubbly for £65. The same tasting menu would otherwise cost £70. To be honest I am not too fussed about the glass of bubbly and would have ordered the tasting menu anyways but I will not scoff at saving £5 (he says having placed a deposit for his suit). As a nice touch, they also have a fully composed, well thought out vegetarian tasting menu, not some random dishes cobbled together in a panic from the main menu with the meat element removed. There is also a set lunch menu on Saturdays at £35 which is excellent value. Do note that during weekend dinner, they only serve a tasting menu.
With our preference for the regular tasting menu confirmed and our main course options chosen we began our meal with a nice cold glass of prosecco and some excellent truffled arancini. We also opted for the prestige wine pairing to go with the tasting menu – mainly out of curiosity. I was very interested to see what wines would be served as, in general, my experience (in England) is usually awful ‘acid bombs’ which the restaurant is trying to dump.
The meal got off to an excellent start with what the dish of the day – sea bream, scallops and oysters with green strawberries and ponzu. The cacophony of ingredients would send shivers down any young chef’s spine but the combination was a revelation and ate brilliantly. The saline sea bream, sweet scallops and briny and rich oyster mayonnaise were complemented by the acidity of the green strawberries and umami punch from the ponzu. What made the dish better was the pairing with a glass of Château Carbonnieux Blanc 2010. I would have expected something predictable such as a Sancerre or New World Sauvignon Blanc, yet I was surprised with this choice. The Sauvignon Blanc – Semillon blend had a nice fat mouth-feel which complemented the oyster element well with the oak aging a nice contrast with the ponzu. This was truly a magical pairing and one which made an excellent dish unforgettable.
Moving on, it was nice to see the chef’s playful side with a dish of prawn tacos. Not just your predictable tex-mex taco, the version here was prettily presented with edible flowers hiding the guacamole and salsa, sat on top of corn husk. On the side was a refreshing shot of green gazpacho flavoured with tarragon oil. Yet again, the wine pairing was interesting with a glass of Chassagne – Montrachet, 1er Cru ‘Les Baudines’, Thomas Morey 2011 complementing the taco. This was another unexpected and interesting pairing which made the main dish more interesting. I will know next time to have a glass of Burgundy with my taco!
After some foie gras and fish, we both branched out with our mains. I naturally went for Pigeon, cooked really rare (probably sous vide) and glazed in its own sticky jus, served with peaches. I am a big fan of pigeon cooked rare as it gives the meat an extra dimension, almost like eating foie gras. Serving it with peaches and fresh chopped almonds gave the dish summery lightness, perfect for a hot day. To go with the pigeon, our sommelier chose a glass of Reserve de la Comtesse 2006 (2nd wine of Pichon Lalande) which was a fairly safe choice. Guess you can’t go wrong with Pauillac!
Dessert proper was a miniature pavlova with a hollowed out French meringue filled with strawberries and paired with anisse hyssop sorbet. I’m a bit nervous with shrubbery in desserts but again the combination worked well. A glass of Disznókö Tokaji Aszu rounded the wine selection with well-balanced acidity and sweetness to go with the strawberries.
This was our second meal at Alyn Williams, and yet again we have come away completely satisfied. The kitchen here is cooking with a high level of consistency and confidence. What the tasting menu does not showcase however is his love for Asian and exotic flavours (seriously Rambutan parfait – I would come back just to eat that dish) which were more abundant in his lunch/ a la carte menu. They are most definitely deserving of their Michelin star and currently at the top of the pile of London restaurants with a star. Time will only tell whether they will be able to make the next jump.