It is the truth not universally acknowledged that bringing a date to a restaurant review will mean no more dates with that person. Volupte marked the end of Double Denim and W1 was the last hurrah with Not Over His Ex.
But oh what a last hurrah, at least on the surface. W1 restaurant belongs to The Cumberland Hotel meaning the decor is all ‘hey I’m an upmarket central London hotel, maybe don’t wear a ripped band T-shirt’. Think low-hanging chandeliers and well-spaced tables in a room decorated warmly along burnt sienna and taupe lines. We were there to enjoy a seven-course tasting menu created by chef Paul Welburn, W1’s successor to Gary Rhodes.
The ambience was cosy with a bar serving as a hallway between the entrance and a discreet seating area. We were plied with champagne before taking a seat at a four-person table joining a man in an eye-catching cravat who, along with his pal, was from the Chelsea Monthly. The four of us got trashed thanks to the initial groundswell of champagne followed by the pairing of a wine with each of the seven courses. The elaborate culinary titbits could not soak up the cornucopia of booze washing around our insides. By dessert, we’d all become Withnail – a glass of red had tumbled, staining our white cover a dramatic crimson.
What of the food? For all its meticulous construction it was circling deliciousness rather than setting up a base there. The first course ‘English carrot’ a carrot, orange and coriander mousse with salted walnut pieces was too light, dissolving before taste could sink into tongue. This ‘almost’ quality ran through the elaborate menu. The shellfish bisque was rich but too cold and although I’ll always think fondly of the monkfish course for introducing the concept of ‘oyster and watercress emulsion’, these satiating morsels, together with grape and chicken, were too many to harmonise. Less would have been more.
It was frustrating as care had clearly been taken with beautiful and brave ingredients (‘soil’ anyone?) presented in the immaculate nouvelle cuisine style. But a look at some of the heartier, and far cheaper options available on the a la carte menu, created a profound yearning for a good old-fashioned three-course meal.
Desserts were a highlight – first a deconstructed pina colada, then chocolate then pear served in a show-stopping mist of dry ice.
Overall despite these delightful delicacies the flurry of tiny ingredients made it hard to leave with a feeling of overall satisfaction. Perhaps the flavour of the menu has become indistinguishable to me from the emotional aftertaste of botched amour (Laurence over at Chelsea Monthly certainly formed a better impression and his review is well worth reading) but it seems to me that at £75 a head the menu’s just too high a price for what it does.
The seven course tasting menu (subject to modification) is available for a limited time at:
The Cumberland Hotel
Great Cumberland Place
Call or email for reservations
Tel: 020 7616 5930