The darling of Mayfair restaurants more than lives up to its reputation as a place of extravagance
When dining at Quaglino’s, one wouldn’t be surprised to see Joan Collins sweeping down the central staircase in a cloud of fur and diamonds. This grand dame of St James’s provides a heady cocktail of flamboyant food and late-night dancing in a glamorous setting. We love the Scandi-chic decor trend as much as anyone but in an age where minimalism is directly proportionate to good taste, there’s something wonderful about a place that is unabashedly ostentatious.
Founded in 1929, it was born of a grudge between two maître d’s. Giovanni Quaglino and John Sovrani were masters of their art, both working at Sovrani’s restaurant on Jermyn Street. When Sovrani became ‘intimate’ with his friend’s wife, Quaglino set up his own establishment round the corner. It was so successful his rival went out of business two years later. Everyone who was anyone dined here: Evelyn Waugh, the Mountbattens and even Queen Elizabeth, making it the first public restaurant ever visited by a reigning monarch.
However, there’s more to Quaglino’s than its champagne-soaked mythology. The food is the foundation on which the atmosphere is built: down to earth, well presented and consistently delicious. A harissa-roasted aubergine starter is served with a scattering of smoky peanuts, adding an unexpected bite. We particularly enjoyed pickled cherries with blushing pink duck breast, alongside spinach sprinkled with nutmeg. Desserts are based on well-loved flavour profiles – dense dark chocolate marquise and damson sorbet, vanilla ice cream with warm apple purée. They’re classics for a reason.
Service remains at the heart of its philosophy. Staff have that rare knack of being both omnipresent and unobtrusive. Napkins that fall to the floor reappear freshly folded before you know they are missing and drinks always remain generously full.
Despite its renown, there’s a real sense that everyone is welcome, whatever the occasion. If you fancy a quiet cocktail, there are two bars to choose from. Looking for somewhere to frolic after several cocktails? Live music five days a week draws a decadent crowd. IL. 020 7930 6767, http://quaglinos-restaurant.co.uk
This article was published on 22nd December 2016 so certain details may not be up to date.