As I sit here, there are two things on my mind. First, the complaints about tourists ruining London are abundant. Second, the clientele that go to restaurants are so specific, that there is a class system that has been established through food institutions. The first point I’ll come back to later. So, foodism. There are the top level restaurants, which one only manages a booking once their surname has been verified on the database to be one of Them. Mr and Mrs Moneybags and their heirs. The bottom of the chain is, of course, McDonalds. Obviously rich people frequent this cheap-tiled, plasticated hut, but they don’t go to the one which has screaming babies occupying the floor, thirteen year old skinheads squaring up for a fight and vomit on the toilet seat. They go to the one in Chelsea, darling. Even middle class people who love a good M&S dine-in can only imagine what goes on in the upper realms of the eating world. To me, those restaurants welcome shining ladies in shimmering dresses, wearing high cheekbones and Swarovski who are accompanied by serious yet self-assured men who can pull off drinking Martinis. They don’t remember the food because they have been concentrating on where they can spend their holiday, somewhere that fits into their strategy of appearing next to the right people and making the right business contacts. In Nandos the person sitting next to you is likely to have won their meal from a magazine and is refilling their free tap water glass with Coke because nobody will ever know, and it’s like, £2 cheaper. Yes, there definitely exists a hierarchy within which it is hard to navigate too far from one’s designated position.
My family and I did ascend our status, moving from local pubs and chain restaurants one Sunday, to celebrate my parents’ 30th wedding anniversary at The Wolseley. It was une soirée magnifique. The decor was subtle but extremely elegant, with black and white marble that shone quietly and extravagant but tasteful lighting. The high ceiling added to its splendour. My family were seating on the upper balcony, which gave an excellent view. I was able to gaze upon a mother and daughter who were eating with someone who must have been the mother’s friend. I later saw the girl in the toilet, carefully checking her hair and appearance. She must have been no more than twelve and already had more poise than I have ever had in my nineteen years.
Now onto, or back to, point number one. Endless tweets have crossed my feed talking about noisy tourists who take photos and who are always in the way. Now, if a tourist feels like a clumsy goldfish out of their own water and flipped onto a platter where the people gaping at you are much more at home and blend in a lot better with the surroundings, then this is how I almost felt visiting the Wolseley. The 6 of us ambled in, ooh’d and aah’d at the setting and from the moment we were seated, whacked out the camera. Now, it is important to record important events as this, but I feel we could have done it with a touch more elegance. First of all, we tried to take a big old group selfie. The waiter eventually rescued us, but after having snapped us having a whale of a time, we realised the setting of the camera made the tasteful cream and dark surroundings appear a rather rude orange and our eager faces were all blurred. We then moved onto self-timers. Suffice to say, it was fairly clear the Yarwoods were not used to being in such a situation. But in a way, that was the point – here we were, a family who discussed their dog’s pooping habits at mealtimes, eating glorious food and in the company of highly refined individuals – we wouldn’t be doing this particularly soon in the future!
The food was, for me, most memorable and parts were exquisite. Out of the three samples, the seared scallops with cauliflower purée and hazelnut dressing really lingered in my mind. They were so soft they lovingly melted in my mouth, allowing their smoky, slightly sticky fullness of flavour to grow in intensity. The tartare sauce that accompanied the deep-fried whitebait was fantastic. I can’t remember why, it just was the master of tartare sauces. My main course was the fillet of sea trout with cucumber and samphire. I wish I had asked for it a little less cooked, because I find the less well meat is cooked, the more it depends on its own quality and this fish could have definitely got away with it. The ribbons of cucumber absorbed the beautiful butter sauce whilst remaining their refreshing crunch and juiciness, contrasting the fish beautifully. A truly memorable dish. My father had the lamb hotpot which was robust and rich, with a sunblasting tomato sauce. A huge success. Finally, the puddings. The banana split, which we all gleefully dug into was great fun and the bitter chocolate sauce went down a treat, although I prefer the sickly Mars bar sort of sauces. The cheesecake, however, was the unforgettable finale. I think you know when a dish has hit the mark when you are simply compelled to close your eyes because you want all your senses to concentrate on absorbing it in every way possible. The two-tone texture combined fluffiness and smooth creaminess with extraordinary effect. The vanilla was true and most definitely perceptible. It held its weight, yet had a delicate sophistication about it. It silkily slipped over my senses, obliterating my surroundings with vanilla lightness without dulling a thing. It was, without doubt, the best vanilla cheesecake I have tasted.
The waiters were charming and compliant, the atmosphere welcoming, and the food remarkable. I recommend this place. It might be quite a smart place, but wear a dress and then spill red wine down it – it is your evening. Take a load of pictures, and enjoy spending time with those dearest to you. The Wolseley will ensure that happens.