You can literally taste the history at Brown’s. In the newly refurbished Donovan Bar in London’s oldest hotel, there’s a spirit cabinet containing tipples from centuries past. The pièce de résistance? A bottle of Clos de Griffier Veuxfrom 1788.
Distilled while the American War of Independence raged across the Atlantic, you can savour this vintage cognac, or other spirits and cocktails (at perhaps more weeknight appropriate prices — the Clos de Griffier Veuxfrom weighs in at £5,500 a glass), before you pop across the corridor to Beck at Brown’s.
Heinz Beck, a chef with three Michelin stars to his name and of La Pergola, a celebrated restaurant in Rome (no, us neither), has set-up shop in the grand old dining room. Billed as “casual” and “easygoing” — not terms you’d readily associate with 144-year-old Mayfair institutions — GJ had heard there was a sizeable buzz about the place.
We paid a visit to see if it was justified, or just the misheard hum of the wine cooler.
According to PR patter, Beck has assembled a light menu of Italian classics — we’re not sure the signature dish fagotelli alla carbonara, pasta parcels which explode with what tastes suspiciously like melted butter upon biting, can be called “light”, but we’re not here to count calories.
We also tried the octopus salad with Italian vine tomatoes and green celery, and grilled Norfolk chicken breast, baby gem and Cardoncelli mushrooms. Our picks from an just-extensive-enough menu of meat and fish dishes from Italy’s north, and fresh citrusy flavours from the south.
The Times, in a recent Giles Coren piece, may have called the food “bland and unmemorable’ but we think that’s largely unfair. The fagotelli, if we’d had a pen and paper to hand, was something to write home about, and the Sorrento cheesecake so memorable its effect comes close to a haunting — lemony memories of its perfection still shivering down our spines three days later.
On a Tuesday night it was quiet enough to hear a piece of spun sugar drop, but we approved of the overall feel: an education in treading the line between elegant and casual (think suit jacket and t-shirt). The staff were friendly and helpful, the floral wallpaper a fun touch if, like us, you’re slightly fanatical about botanical decor.
Beck’s last foray in London – a restaurant at the Lanesborough – won a star, but failed to set pulses racing. At Brown’s, however, the chef has seriously stepped up his game. And, with a dash of aged spirits and the zest of south European cuisine, has cooked up a welcome addition to the Mayfair dining scene.
Beck at Brown's Hotel