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
This is the last of my back-logged updates from my meals prior to our trip to the South East. Our meal at Alyn Williams was completely unplanned, so much so that our last minute booking via OpenTable was not received by the restaurant. Thankfully, despite the small hiccup they had plenty of spare tables available on a cold Thursday night. It really is a shame that despite holding a Michelin star and being very fairly priced, the restaurant remains pretty quiet particularly during midweek.
The menu format during weekday dinners features a small a la carte menu (3 options each) as well as 2 tasting menus (a regular tasting menu and a vegetarian tasting menu). The kitchen is pretty flexible however and if you fancied a dish on the tasting menu which is not featured on the a la carte or vice versa, they are more than happy to make the swaps. On the day when we visited, they also featured a white truffle special. We opted for the regular tasting menu but as my fiancee is not a big fan of foie gras, they kindly swapped it for an alternative vegetarian dish of her choice. We also could not resist adding on the daily special.
Our meal officially began with an excellent dish of raw marinated scallops with Mylor shrimp. Sat in the middle was the crispy shrimp head which had been deep fried and completely edible. While eating shrimp head is completely commonplace in Asia and even Australia, British diners tend to be a lot more reserved. As such it was great to see such a tasty bite being served to contrast the sweet-saline scallops. A little cucumber added freshness to tie all the elements together.
The next dish of cod with gutweed and clams was interesting. The kitchen chose to serve the poached cod lukewarm which highlighted the sweetness of the fish more prominently. I really enjoyed the addition of gutweed (a type of seaweed) butter which gave the dish a huge umami boost. I am not sure if the addition of truffle was totally necessary but it gave the dish an extra touch of luxury.
If there was one dish we were absolutely looking forward to, it would have been the special of spring onion risotto with white truffle. When we placed the order, the maitre’d suggested splitting an a la carte portion between the two of us – a suggestion we quickly dismissed knowing how much we both enjoy a well made risotto. That proved to be a very wise decision because this had to be one of the best risottos we have had the pleasure to eat. It was interesting that spring onions was used instead of regular onions as the base of the risotto as it imparted a subtle sweet and more delicate onion-y note to the dish. The dish is also lifted with a small squeeze of lime and finished off with mascarpone for a richer finish. All these small touches meant that the white truffle, sliced with generous abundance, was allowed to work its magic.
We would both have been happy if the meal had ended there and then, but I enjoyed a very well composed main course of Devon ruby beef. The dish features your traditional sirloin, cooked sous-vide before being finished on the grill alongside a very well made beef tartare. I am a sucker for a good beef tartare, and the version here was certainly excellent, with the peppery notes from the turnip complementing the tartare very well. For me, what made the dish really enjoyable was the good amount of acidity coming from the elderberry vinegar which gave the dish a lift and helped cut through the richness of the dish.
As good as all the savoury courses were, dessert was a much simpler fare. First a pre-dessert of vanilla pannacotta with blackberry was perfectly well made and pleasant but I find it very difficult to get excited by pannacotta these days. Maybe it is just me. The final dessert was a chocolate ‘Aero’ with gingerbread ice cream and mandarin. Again this was perfectly pleasant and I particularly enjoyed the gingerbread ice cream but felt that the dish just lacked that je nais se quai.
This was another excellent meal at Alyn Williams. At £70, the tasting menu is excellent value for money for the level of cooking delivered. The service here is pretty much flawless with staff interactive and knowledgeable. For me, desserts seem to be the only weak point here and in my opinion is probably what is holding the restaurant from getting its 2nd star.