Not a lot of people know this, but I’ve always hankered after dining at Langan’s for a long, long time. And, so it came pass this June when a group of us turned up at this very iconic British institution, which was opened in 1976 by Irish restaurateur Peter Langan, in partnership with actor Sir Michael Caine and the Michelin star chef Richard Shepherd.
My American friend from Chicago and I sat down at a table for six, before the rest of our party - a Dane, a couple from Estonia and the U.S. with their golf-playing prodigy of a daughter arrived. My pal ordered a Margarita cocktail while I chose a Virgin Mary with a dash of Worcestershire sauce as we perused the extensive menu.
Dotted around the walls of the brasserie - although I should point out that word doesn’t really do Langan’s any justice - are pictures of the rich and famous. Back in the mid-1980s the venue had become a haunt of the likes of Liz Taylor, Jack Nicholson, Marlon Brando, Mick Jagger and Mohammed Ali.
Among friends we were nestled between a black and white photo on one side of Bradford-born David Hockney (who incidentally designed the menu) and a bespectacled Michael Caine wearing his ubiquitous polo neck.
In fact, it was something that Caine and Langan had set out to achieve from the start at Langan’s, located at 26 Stratton Street in Mayfair on the former site of Le Coq d’Or restaurant, to install brighter lighting and display original art work. Aside from Hockney, art by Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon amongst others has been displayed.
They say that Langan’s doesn’t rush you and if this experience is anything to go by they would be right. In our case we sat down at 6.00pm for dinner and we settled the bill at around 10:30pm. One thing above else all that was noticeable was the extremely hospitable staff.
Confronted by a selection of fifteen starters, we decided to select a range that included soufflé aux epinards with sauce anchois (£11.50), a plate of veal carpaccio with tomato & olive tapenade (£14.50), English asparagus with Hollandaise sauce (£11.50), some delicious poached eggs with smoked haddock (£12.50) and Grilled sardines with olive tapenade & sourdough toast (£10.50). What wasn’t to like? And, I can confirm it was all polished off with some gusto.
For the mains, one has a choice of a ‘Dish of the Day’, which range in price from £17.50 (Honey roast gammon with parsley sauce & new potatoes on Tuesday) to £34.50 (Beef Wellington with Madeira sauce on Saturday).
As it was a Thursday, I plumped for braised breast of guinea fowl with wild mushrooms & port jus at £18.50 - and couldn’t fault it. Side dishes such as French bean Provencal, Courgette gratin (both at £4.75), leaf spinach (£5.25), and French fries (£4.25) were extra.
My American friend based in London plumped for the grilled Dover sole fillets with parsley butter (£38.00), which proved a winner and were particularly succulent.
As you might imagine the wine list at this establishment is extensive. My host from Denmark selected a bottle of Chateau Talbot (2011), one of the best-known Bordeaux wines estates to a UK audience. Decanted it didn’t disappoint and hence why we opted for a second bottle.
For dessert how could one resist sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream at £7.95. Come to that gooseberry crumble. Mind you among the savouries I had considered Peter Langan’s Welsh Rarebit (£8.95).
But if one doesn’t fancy any of this there is a selection of British and French cheeses on offer at a reasonably priced £10.50. Then of course it was a glass of cognac and coffee to finish off proceedings.
A visit to Langan’s is an experience for any occasion. While Peter Langan is no longer with us - having sadly died in a mysterious fire at his home - his spirit lives on. The establishment claims that that not much has changed over the years, except that if anything it has improved. The buzz and ambience of the place is second to none. Opening times for Langan’s are Monday-Thursday (12pm-11pm), Friday-Saturday (12pm-11:30pm).
About the author: Roger Aitken is a freelance writer who contributes to Forbes (www.forbes.com/sites/rogeraitken) amongst other titles and was a former FT staff writer.