Perhaps because Embassy is better known for its club than its restaurant, it would explain why, on a sunny Friday afternoon, the place is utterly deserted. Strangely the snug outdoor dining terrace, with its über stylish cane chairs, über square cushions and über low wall (to keep out the riff-raff – this is Mayfair dontcha know) is completely empty. What a waste.
My dinner date and I take a seat outside, and from where we’re sitting it’s an attractive view. At the head of Old Burlington Street you can glimpse a few Porsches, the superb Royal Academy of Arts building, and a couple of cosmetically-enhanced passers by. It’s the perfect spot to while away a summer’s afternoon, as the interior, though stylish and glamorous with its white, gold and wood décor, emerges cold and dark on a day like this.
I’ve yet to experience the member’s only basement club below, but from what I hear it’s the sort of joint frequented by WAGS, wannabe WAGS, Big Brother evictees and preppy teenagers. A joint venture between restaurateur Mark Fuller and three-Michelin-starred chef Garry Hollihead, Embassy-by-day seems so much classier than that.
To ease into our deluxe surroundings we order a bottle of the Blenheim Point 2005 – a zesty and ultra refreshing Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand that has strong fruit flavours without being overly sweet. Today the menu consists of a specials list that includes broccoli soup with truffle crème fraiche, chicken parfait with pear chutney and port jelly, and salmon gravlax with beetroot and apple horseradish – and that’s just the starters.
Holihead’s haute cuisine has been called, amongst other things, ‘luxurious’ and ‘accomplished’, and when we receive our starters we can appreciate why. Served in swanky style, the sautéed prawns, with pepper bruschetta and guacamole, are delicately stacked; while my seared loin of tuna niçoise is perfectly portioned with three deliciously tender chunks of tuna.
For main I order the grilled market fish of the day: Pollock, a firm white, flaky fish with a sweet, subtle flavour. It arrives with a unique roast tomato, pepper and merlot chutney, and a side of mash that is presented like soft-serve ice cream. Meanwhile my carnivorous date tucks into a medium-rare Aberdeen Angus steak with slow roasted tomatoes and béarnaise sauce which, I am assured, is divine.
To finish it is impossible to resist the strawberry trifle. Though not a match for my mother’s own unbeatable recipe, it is about as self-indulgent as you can get: five layers of sponge, strawberries and cream in every shade of pink, with a toffee straw touch. My date’s vanilla panacotta with rhubarb and ginger salad wobbles like milk jelly.
Embassy ticked all the right boxes in the cuisine department, and the service was swift and attentive; not surprising really, as there was no one else in the restaurant. Shame, as a lively atmosphere was all our dining experience was lacking.