I like to to think I know the London restaurant scene pretty well. I make a conscious effort to try them all – the trendy new restaurants that seems to pop up regularly around town as well as those old London institutions that have been here long before I was. That being said, it still baffles me how I have never been to The Wolseley.
There have been many occasions where I have made plans to try out this European cafe in Mayfair. I have even considered just walking in when I walk past it on my way to Hyde Park, but it somehow never happened. So when Seb booked us in for dinner here, I was quite frankly, excited!
The Wolseley is an all day dining café-restaurant in the grand European tradition serving up celebrities and Wolseley regulars alike. That was definitely not the case when it first opened it’s doors in 1921. Believe it or not, this William Curtis Green designed building started off as a car showroom for the Wolseley Motors Limited.
Unfortunately the high end cars didn’t sell very well and closed in 1926 when it was acquired by Barclays Bank who converted it into one of their branches. The Wolseley as we know it only opened in 2003 when current owners Chris Corbin and Jeremy King secured this historic site and restored this stunning space to it’s former glory. How is that for history?
The restaurant has got an atmosphere to match its grand history. When we visited, the Wolseley was alive with smartly dressed people, clinking champagne glasses, whilst enjoying ice cold fresh oysters. Life is good right? Everything about the Wolseley hints at class and sophistication without feeling stuffy. Yes, it’s old fashioned but not in a bad way.
Start off with an Expresso Martini – they do one of the best ones in town. It’s the perfect accompaniment as you scan through the Hors d’Oeuvres, resist ordering the whole menu.
If you read my blog regularly, you know how picky I am about the bread that restaurants serve up. I am a firm believer of the fact that you can judge how good (or bad) a restaurant is, by the bread that is put in front of you. Going by that barometer, The Wolseley was definitely a winner – the bread was warm and baked perfectly. I was also a massive fan of the butter which was perfectly salted for me. Seb and I were so impressed, we asked for a second serving!
For our hors d’oeuvres, Seb ordered the Cream Crackers with Pigeon served with Pickle. Not my favourite but the pigeon meat was tender and beautifully flavoured. My starter of Pâté served with Toast was really nice. The pâté was incredibly smooth and spread like butter on my toast- the sign of a well made pâté! Yes, it was incredibly simple but that is exactly what the Wolseley stands for – simple traditional dishes, which you know are always going to be spot on and keeps you coming back for more.
A lot of non Wolseley fans always critic the fact that the menu is very consistent and has been for many years but I personally don’t think this is a bad thing. The Schweineschnitzel at The Wolseley is one of the best in town. It’s a firm favourite of regular patrons and hence, has been on the menu forever. If you fancy a bit of Germany in London, this is where you go. Served with some fresh lemon and a side of perfectly crispy french fries, this dish is a must have here.
I tried the plats du jour, which was the Veal Hongroise on the Wednesday night we dined at the Wolseley. I however, wasn’t a big fan of this Hungarian classic. I thought the sauce was a little too tangy for my liking and the veal was slightly overcooked. At £19.75 a plate, I do expect just that little bit more and this dish unfortunately didn’t deliver.
I have heard a lot about the desserts at the Wolseley and they definitely did not disappoint. The Chocolate Éclair we ordered was heaven on a plate – incredibly fresh and the chocolate was absolutely divine! I actually haven’t had another one which can rival this beauty. I am still looking but I highly doubt I am going to find one anytime soon. We also tried a selection of their word famous Macaroons. The mint macaroon was a definite stand out – delicately fresh without being overpowering. Highly recommend.
What’s the verdict I hear you ask? The food was hit and miss for me. There were dishes that were absolutely spot on (like the Schweineschnitzel) and dishes that I wouldn’t order again. But add to this, this beautifully stunning art deco space with its grand chandeliers and friendly service from one of the best FOH teams in London, the Wolseley still has it.
A lot of my friends tell me that the Wolseley is ‘faded glory’ but I don’t think this is the case. The Wolseley is still one of the best European cafe’s in London and will always remind me of the rich culinary history of this wonderful city. They also serve up a good breakfast so if you are trying to be good and save some money, you could always try the breakfast menu instead of lunch or dinner. That being said, to experience the best of what The Wolseley has to offer, I would still recommend trying to book a table in the evening. You never know, you might even spot a celebrity or two.