Back To The Future

13 February 2024

Back to the Future: Claridge’s Restaurant Redefined

Claridge’s Restaurant has reopened with only one name in mind: yours. David Ellis takes us on a gastronomic journey where tradition meets innovation, poised to redefine culinary excellence in Mayfair’s dining scene.

There probably isn’t a soul alive who fancies being defined by their ex. Even Liz Taylor and Richard Burton found two marriages apiece to rattle through after their own (second) divorce. Claridge’s will forever be the A-side of any relationship. After all, the primary restaurant at Brook Street has had many notable chefs behind the counter over the years. Each made their mark - Gordon Ramsay made it fashionable, Simon Rogan made it seasonal and Daniel Humm made it innovative. What now? Independence.

Twenty years after the hotel last had the confidence to bill the restaurant under its own name alone, it is doing so again.

There was no grand announcement of what is now simply called Claridge's Restaurant; it just quietly opened for lunch one day. A few journalists came in and drank too much and that was that. But the change is markedly different: the hotel has a room of its own once again. Under the eye of a marquee name chef, the restaurant felt like two minds meeting. Now, with the grand silk white of the walls and great curling mirrors, with the flat gleaming slabs of marble and the cosseting green leather, it feels uniquely Claridge's.

Designer Bryan O'Sullivan has uncovered the rooftop skylights, designed by Guy Oliver, in all their full glory and showcased art from the hotel's collection, including pieces by Sean Scully and Richard Gorman. It is a room you might wander into and go, 'It is just as I dreamed it would be. Claridge’s is herself again.'

double doors open into the kitchen
Claridge's bar and bar stools
Claridge's Restaurant corridor with tables

And 'herself', here, means recognising that the hotel is a grande dame. Perhaps you know the type: outwardly all put-together and proper, until they catch your eye over a joke and it becomes clear that under the surface there is a deep dry humour, a sense of fun and a little naughtiness. This is a restaurant with a raised eyebrow, an irreverent smile. It is, in other words, a lot of fun. You might make breakfast last till lunch. Or you might walk in for lunch and find yourself asking if there’s room to stay for supper. Experience suggests the excellent wine list helps enormously with making the decision to stay later than one ought.

This sense of fun-infused formality is elegantly inked into the heart of the menu.

There are the pleasingly upscale choices from Irish chef Coalin Finn; your choice of caviar, the lobster lying under a sauce Américaine – one of the stately French sauces, no matter how they name it. And it’s there in the towering, handpicked fruits des mer, shimmering oysters next to hunched langoustines; the centrepiece of crab, its rival the lobster; scallops on their homegrown plates; and mussels studding it like jewels.

dish with lobster in a sauce
2 tiers of seafood
black truffles on a crumpet

Familiar orders are here too: butter-soaked turbot, maybe, or the beef rib for two, with a smear of confit garlic and the sticky sweetness of the immortal Bordelaise, or the Norfolk chicken, stuffed with brioche and lemon and roasted till the skin goes golden. But it goes beyond that: those curious to explore can. There is a buckwheat crumpet that sits under shavings of black truffle stacked up like a pile of papers; there are radishes that are spiked on skewers and come with fine black marks from the barbecue. The saffron that colours the sea bass’s beurre blanc has the freshness of courgette cheerfully fighting against it.

white fish with sauce and herbs
steak, chips and green vegetables
baked alaska set alight

What’s here, then, is a ‘new’ restaurant in London that runs at all different speeds. Claridge’s manager Paul Jackson puts it best:

It is a spot where people can pop in a few times a week for coffee and an indulgent breakfast, an informal leisurely lunch, or a truly special occasion dinner.

Which in the end means: here is a restaurant that feels as though it has always existed – immortal, ageless, a perfect fit.

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