Two long-established London restaurants have hired outstanding new head chefs. The venerable Goring Hotel lies just around the corner from Buckingham Palace and has been owned by the same family for more than a century. At the helm of the kitchen is Shay Cooper, who has hot-footed it over the Thames from the more modish Bingham hotel in Richmond, where he won a Michelin star.
Despite the refined, traditional surroundings he hasn’t been distracted from his brief of serving Great British ingredients in a contemporary style. My eggs Drumkilbo starter – a Goring classic – is now a daintier combination of egg, salmon and crisp vegetables with the addition of tomato, consommé jelly and caviar. Another salad – a moreish combination of cauliflower and onion with a Montgomery’s cheddar custard – arrived as a between-courses freebie and was also delicious.
Cooper’s light touch continued with a succulent piece of roast Cornish cod wrapped in Ibérico ham and served with asparagus, pea shoots, broad beans and cockles, which allowed room for a dessert of lemon and yuzu curd with toasted meringue and pink grapefruit sorbet – quite possibly the best pudding I’ve eaten so far this year.
Another new arrival, Tommy Boland, is making a big impression at the Almeida restaurant opposite the eponymous theatre in Islington, north London – a firm favourite with liberal luvvies and theatrical types. Boland’s youthful looks belie years of experience in some of the best kitchens in London and Paris.
There’s a lightness to his menu, which is so fresh and seasonal you can almost smell the earth and sea if you shut your eyes. Eye-popping green was the strong colour that dominated during an amuse-bouche of pea velouté and a plate of English asparagus with scallops and courgette ribbons.
A richer, sweeter main course of duck, apricot chutney, baby turnips and duck liver crumble followed before a mouth-watering dessert of macaron- style meringue, which was split and sandwiched with a mango cream and passionfruit sauce.
Helena Lang is editor of Sainsbury’s magazine. Email Helena by clicking here
Let’s grab a bargain lunch
Want to be in and out in an hour? Check out these deals
Langho, near Blackburn
Starters and desserts at the restaurant in this luxurious hotel on the edge of the Ribble Valley cost £5 each, with main courses priced at £15. If you include coffee, you can dine like a king for just £28.
The Roth Bar & Grill
Durslade Farm, Bruton, Somerset
The £12.50 lunch at this eatery in the Hauser & Wirth gallery includes home-made bread, cold cuts and delicious salads such as spiced aubergine, tomato and pine nuts.
336-337 The Strand, London WC2
For just £10 order one of 10 dishes, including grilled salmon, quail eggs and green beans, home-made pasta or a pizza. Each arrives with a side of polenta chips, salad or fennel gratin.
Stanley’s Bar & Grill
Stanley Dock, Liverpool
The express menu here includes a choice of three starters, three meat courses with a side dish and three desserts. At £15.95 for two courses and £18.95 for three, this place puts the customer front of mind.