Angela Hartnett – W1

Hmmm.

Ok. So, you decide to arrange a pleasant combo social/business dinner on a Sunday evening for some Middle Eastern clients who normally stay on Park Lane. Why not Angela Hartnett?

It starts well. Efficient reservation staff is usually a good sign and A.H. has great reservation staff.

Following a drink at the Dorchester Bar (mid-90’s interior design realised in the mid-00’s with awful music too loud, although they have Junipero, so… they can be forgiven), we hopped in a taxi (I know, ALL THE WAY) to the Connaught.

I have to say, before continuing, that I adore the Connaught. It is, without a doubt, the best kept secret in London for a charming drink, a good meal, and a roaring fire in Mayfair. But for all of that, we were off to A.H.

My Middle Eastern guests and I were seated at a lovely table in the dining room. And then we realised. Well, they realised, actually, I was facing the other way. Of all the people to have at the next table, yes, indeed, it was Binyamin (Bibi) Netanyahu.
200px-benjamin_netanyahu.jpg
Well, that didn’t go down terribly well. But the thing was, the staff obviously recognised Bibi as well, so that when his meal arrived, the rest of us descended into complete non-existence. Their fish was rolled up and filleted at the table. Our menus were lost somewhere.

Having managed to get the menu, our rather teutonic waiter (what happened to French service?) explained that the special was “Rizzoto with zah Vait Truffels” which apparently was Risotto with White Truffles. Yours for an additional £30 as a starter or £45 as a main course (in addition to the £60 normal 3 course price tag). He then, having been asked by one of the guests what he meant by ‘supplement’ went on to condescend to explain that supplemental meant ‘in addition to’. Prat.

My three guests started off with the Risotti and I took the trio (why is everything these days a trio?) of foie gras – a parfait, a terrine, and a panfried lobe. We started with an amuse bouche of a cauliflower soup with a wine reduction. The risotti which followed looked lovely, and I have to admit that the foie gras was fantastic (aside from one missed nerve in the lobe of my panfried, but that happens – the flavour was out of this world). For the mains, were two venison, one scallops, and I had the duck with girolles together with a pithivier of confit. Absolutely fantastic food.

But.

The sommelier. I am not sure from under which rock they dragged him and his sidekick to play sommelier in all their swarthiness. We started off with a sexy Puligny Montrachet that was just perfect, I imagine, for the risotti and sufficiently tangy for the foie. But then. But then we had a bottle of Corton 2002 that arrived and it was just, well, too tart. Not ready for drinking. Too tangy. Too tannic on the sides of the palate. Normally, I would have suffered through, but not my colleagues. Back it went and, boy, was sommelier boy unhappy. It was eventually replaced with the Grand Puy Ducasse 1990, but not before dinner was already finished.

It’s a funny thing sending back wine. I mean, corked wine, obviously, needs to go back. But what if it’s just, well, completely disappointing? This Corton definitely fell in that category, but the affront that the sommelier apparently felt was out of all proportion. There was a great deal of pouting about going on. And afterwards to sommelier number 2 (or 1, who knows) that I was sorry that the wine was not acceptable at which point he started on about the “animal nature of the nose”. Right.

Post-dinner, coffee in the bar was merely ok. The post-dinner petits fours are a big disappointment compared to Hospital Road, Pied a Terre, Le Manoir, and a number of other places. However, congratulations are in order for a good selection of Armagnacs, which, as we all know, gentle readers, is the king of ‘gnacs.

So, Angela summary:

Dinner at Angela Hartnett

Dinner for four: ?? Unknown – Best not to pay for these things.

Food: 8.5 out of 10 – beautiful food, so terribly let down by the service.

Service: 5 out of 10 – bad marks for your sommelier and for the teutonic service who at times seemed lost. Sommeliers should doubtless be gracious when customers do silly things, not try to educate us. This isn’t Bella Pasta, after all, and most of us have had a Corton before, thanks.

Atmosphere: 8.5 out of 10 – the Connaught is a gem and A.H.’s room is a lovely part of it. Definitely one of the most refined in London.

Sexy Factor: 8.5 out of 10 – More the ‘power factor’ than the sexy factor. Aside from Bibi, some minor Tories and the occassional American. There is some serious business going on there.

Return?: Angela, I will give you another chance. But do this to me again, and you are dead to me.

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