Alyn Williams - Westbury Mayfair
My daughter Paris and her group The Adelaides were supporting Celine Dion in July 2019 at the British Summertime Concert in Hyde Park. We felt it a perfect opportunity to check out some London places to eat. Pook thought we should check out The Westbury Mayfair Hotel as it was home to Alyn William’s Michelin star restaurant.
Alyn Williams used to work with Marcus Wareing at the Berkley but established himself at the Westbury Mayfair hotel in 2011. In this beautiful dining room, he is serving up modern British dishes using fine French cooking techniques. He has a unique idea of allowing you to look around his kitchen and he very proudly talks you through how it all works. Such is his skill, he welcomes you to choose wines that he will then develop a menu for you around. This personalised service is fantastic and very unique. We were lucky to get a table but chose instead to have a tasting menu meal.
Alyn changes his tasting menu every 3 months, meaning people can return for a different culinary experience quite often, it also allows him to use whatever foods are in season. The inside of the restaurant is, as one can imagine, sumptuous and definitely 5 star. Tan velvet walls and scoop chairs compliment the teak décor. Tables are arranged for intimate parties of two and four, and the service is naturally perfect without being pretentious. Staff are readily available and will knowingly describe the dishes to you and be chatty, or will leave you be for a more intimate experience.
Two glasses of champagne arrived which, despite being complimentary, were a good example and very tasty. We asked for tap water which was served in large jug.
We were offered a taster before we started our meal. The tasty lobster filling was delicately sandwiched between sweet thin crisps. Decorating the top were black caviar pearls and a hint of paprika dust. With these were other tartlets containing what we thought were goats cheese, pea shoots and edible marigold and rose petals. A beautiful and luxurious start to the meal.
Not happy with delighting us with this, the waitress also brought us foie gras logs. The logs were made of thin crispy pastry and filled with the most delicious, creamy, sweet foie gras. Incredible!
Taste buds tantalised, some bread arrived with salted goat’s milk butter. It was warm, soft with a crunchy crust. Pook asked for some sweet balsamic vinegar to dip her bread. Often as not restaurants don’t have any but this promptly arrived and was very nice. For the first course I chose the chicken leg dish, it was deboned, tender with zero fat and a crunchy skin and served with light barigoule artichoke. Barigoule means it has been cooked with carrots, onion, garlic and rosemary in a white wine and stock to produce a very soft and light texture.
This was served with shallots and rose and marigold petals. All were sat in the barigoule artichoke and black garlic sauce. It was a nice dish in a slightly thin sauce that didn't threaten its main ingredient but complimented it beautifully.
Pook chose the Mackerel tartare topped with a thin cucumber sheet, granita and cucumber gel with marigold petals. Tiny Shimeji mushroom heads and a slightly tangy pink gooseberry juice finished off this dish perfectly…. First point to Pook as I thought it better than the chicken dish I had chosen.
By now we are getting well into our food and at this point I notice a nit or small insect has managed to kamikaze his way into my glass of 2013 Riesling (£57). I mentioned to the waitress that the pesky blighter was drinking my wine and would have been happy to have been handed a small spoon to fish the blighter out. Instead, she apologised like she has herself convinced the alcoholic creepy crawly to invade my drink, and promptly took the glass and bottle away. Within minutes a new glass arrived and was refilled from what looked like a fresh bottle of wine. I was taken aback and quite surprised by this, but decided that my slightly squiffy eyes must be deceiving me.
At the same time as this, our next course arrived and it was Cornish cod with tartare sauce and Jersey Royal potatoes. Due to its over-use in the British fish n chippy, cod is an often overlooked fish in fine dining; but it can be a lovely fish and it made for a lovely dish. The cod was perfectly cooked with the meat having a hint of pearlescence and this was perched atop a bed of Jersey Royal cubes in a creamy tartare sauce. Thin fish batter scraps had been sprinkled on to give a textured crunch and I decided it was the nicest course so far. The third course was Bavette/smoked short rib with garlic scapes. Bavette is a French name for a flank steak which is a steak taken from the abdominal muscles or lower chest. Used in places like Brazil and Columbia a lot but less common in this country, it is a highly flavoured flat cut meat.
These slices sat with a slice of sweet bone marrow with a celeriac ribbon on top. Garlic scape stems and beef jus completed this dish. We were a bit disappointed to find the beef was chewy and that the beef jus was overly salty but it was hardly anything to complain about. The celeriac ribbon and bone marrow however were both very tasty… overall a nice dish. To our amazement the Riesling was still coming and such was their attention to detail of us having a perfect night, providing a second complimentary bottle seemed the natural thing to do.
As a break we were offered a cheese course and being a greedy pig and loving cheese I chose three.. The Casinca goats cheese from Corsica was very special. Soft, creamy and beautifully balanced I felt obliged to help it down with a 10 year old Tawny port. Following from this we had a palette cleanser of lemon sorbet, lemon meringue and yuzu jelly with sorrel leaves.
Very cold, crunchy, tangy and the sorbet was lovely and soft. A beautiful cleanser and a great dish with many elements…. It didn't look pretentious on the plate but boy did it pack a punch of taste... My new best dish of the meal. At what seemed like surely the end of an “as advertised” 5 course meal my pudding arrived. I had chosen a poached pear dish. A honey financier was delicately placed on top of home-made strawberry sorbet and malt foam that hid the poached pear slices and sponge underneath. I loved it and thought it was better than Pooks. She didn’t agree (she was wrong of course!) and said that her strawberry ice cream, fresh strawberries on puff pastry with elderflower petals was great.
Finally we decided to have a coffee, at £6 each it seemed good value and a good way to finish off a great meal. It was labelled as being served with petit fours so we expected a little chocolate or something… What arrived was amazing and absolutely worth a heck of a lot more than the £6 price tag.
A white bowl was placed on the table, inside of which was a chocolate orange cake and little mint chocolate dunes. Pook doesn’t like mint or orange food flavours so I had to grin and bear eating it myself. Fabulous.
If that wasn’t enough for my waistline a large oval wooden serving plate arrived with yuzu cubes, chocolate orange cakes with real carrot slices on top and chocolate fondant tartlets. Great luxurious English food with a twist of Japanese exuberance, this place is a must go to for its value for money. As big foodies we relished the opportunity to look inside the kitchen of this great restaurant. Still hot from all the cooking and feverish activity of the staff, the kitchen staff were just starting to clean down.
We met Alyn who was, despite being at the end of a long day, full of happy charm and enthusiasm. He explained to us how the kitchen was divided into areas of cold items (cucumber etc) fish, meat and veg aisles, puddings, sweets and breads. Alyn was very chatty, engaging and very interesting to talk to. He explained that the carrot slice on the little cake was slightly cooked and has syrup poured over it. Pook couldn’t help herself and talk about the foods she cooks at home, Alyn was genuinely interested and so out came the phone to show him. He was, we think, quite surprised at some of the photos and promptly invited himself round; we of course said if he is ever nearby to do exactly that.
Pook had booked the restaurant in advance on a set price so knew the price (£54 each) even with the extras we chose (Cheese selection and coffees) the price at £135.00 plus drinks made this Great Value for money. We know we went a little mad but came away feeling that the price was fantastic for the opulence, food quality and experience.
A definitely a go back to place and we would happily travel 60 miles to visit this brilliant restaurant again.