Where to celebrate important milestone anniversaries? IX Magazine decided to look at all the different ways to make the day special and memorable.
What better to mark the occasion than to go back to the place where you had your first date? Luckily for us this happened to be Quaglinos. Now I’ve been there a few times since it reopened in 2014 after a £3 million renovation under its new owners D&D London, but not with romantic intent. It has a rich history, having been regularly frequented by Lord and Lady Mountbatten and Princess Margaret. The Queen also dined there in 1956 making her the first monarch to dine at a public restaurant. Clearly the fifties were a time of liberation for the English aristocracy. It has also had its fair share of interesting scandals and many people have their own Quaglinos story to tell after a few to many glasses.
So we rocked up at this celebrated location in Picadilly, behind the Ritz, for lunch, nodded to the doorman and made our way down the stairs to the reception. The decor has been revamped since we first went there 20 years ago, more luxurious than ever and very much keeping to the art deco theme so popular in the better Paris restaurants. There is a bar to the left for those who just want to drink and chat and we sat in deep comfortable chairs at one of the low tables to start the day with a bottle of fine Moët Champagne. The bar service is swift and efficient even on a Friday and we were soon supping and reminiscing on days gone by.
The bar is really a large balcony and overlooks the restaurant downstairs, with a stage at the far end, used for live music and entertainment. The restaurant itself is laid out around its own circular bar, with large geometric triangular lamps hovering overhead. There are booths at the near end for more private dining, but Quaglinos is definitely a place to be seen.
The bar was filled with good looking men and women, playing hooky from the office, or starting the Friday fun a little early, celebrating a business win, or simply being young, successful and in London at the start of the weekend.
Once we were ready to dine, we were shown to our table by Reka, who greeted us very warmly and sat us between the booths and the bar. Our other waiter Viktor also introduced himself and explained the wondrous possibilities laid out in the menu before us with wit and charm. After dithering over who would have what on the menu, with cries of “no I wanted that, you have this” we plumped for the Earl Grey and orange cured salmon, apple gel, salted lemon emulsion, keta caviar and the seared yellowfin tuna, Yuzu, Charred cucumber and black radish as starters, with the scallop and sole timbale, baby spinach and lobster velouté, and the roast stone bass, curried mussel potage, leak and potato paysanne as our mains.
We were introduced to the sommelier Fabian, who listened attentively to our menu selection then ascertained what we liked in terms of body, flavour and texture in wine. He wisely recommended a fine oaky Chardonnay to accompany my food and pink champagne for the lady.
The salmon was cooked to perfection, raw inside and perfectly complimented by the little bursts of caviar and sweet apple gel on top. The seared tuna and cucumber was equally sublime, light and savorous, soft and clean, like a light sea breeze.
I had the stone bass and mussels in curry, which tickled the palette, balancing the light texture of the stone bass with the stronger, richer mussels, with just the lightest hint of curry to lift and compliment the sea flavours further. The scallop and sole timbale was a revelation, so subtle, yet succulent wth rich deep mediterranean tastes. The ingredients were so fresh, we half expected them to swim off the plate. We shared a chocolate Marquise feuillantine to finish, the final voluntary death by chocolate, rich but yummy, topped with a gold flourish.
Our waiters Viktor and Reka were the model of attentiveness, refilling our glasses whenever needed, without intruding at all. Their description of each course was flawless and they made sure we were well taken care of, taking obvious pride in our enjoyment of the meal.
Quaglinos has been a landmark on the London scene for decades and everyone should have a Quaglinos story to share. This is one restaurant that lives up to the hype and they are very much flying the flag for British cuisine at its finest. It should be on everyone’s list to dine out in London, whether you are popping in from the counties, in the west end for the theatre, or in from abroad, this is one to put on your bucket list.
In the evening there is lively entertainment with a 20’s flapper feel to it, from pre war style jazz bands to some of the greatest pop pianists on the London scene. Quaglinos is one of the core reasons that London has such a glorious international reputation for fine dining, trendy live music and dancing. Their regular acts include MKM Collective, Reuben Richards, Elle & the Pocketbelles and The Swinging Little Big Band. They have also showcased big legends such as Marianne Faithful, Beverley Night, Jocelyn Brown, Gabriella Cilmi and Eliza Doolittle. We had a wonderful anniversary there and we would highly recommend it for lunch, a quick drink, or a full night of great music and glamorous fun.