Look! Finally a post that's NOT about babies! Or my pelvic floor! Hurrah.
On Tuesday my friends Susie, Vicky and I went for dinner at the Winter Garden in the Landmark Hotel. It was Vicky's birthday and, as Susie had recently done herself a mischief (twisted her ankle badly) whilst walking along the Great Wall of China (no joke - respect!) our main criteria for the restaurant was that it had to be near to a tube station.
Now I don't often think of going for dinner in hotels, which is possibly daft as there are so many amazing hotels in London and I'm probably missing out on some real treats. So when Susie suggested the Landmark, which is slap bang outside Marylebone station, I was intrigued. (But mostly just grateful at the idea of dinner ANYWHERE without the baby screaming at me). She then mentioned that they have a £35 three-course set menu, which comes with a champagne cocktail...
When we first entered the hotel (yes it is the kind of joint where a be-hatted man in tails opens the front door for you), I was immediately reminded of Vegas. The scale of the Landmark is impressive for London - it's huge and grand and opens out onto a big internal atrium. It's in this atrium (overlooked by all the hotel rooms) that you will find the Winter Garden, complete with palm trees, and a pianist playing show tunes in a soft and unobtrusive manner.
It's all very posh and calm. And hotel-y. The antithesis of the usual trendy queue-for-hours-round-the-block-then-scream-over-the-music pop-up restaurant that is so popular these days.
In fact, I'd even go so far to say as it felt distinctly middle-aged, but maybe that's why it appealed. Yikes. What an admission.
The service was fab, not stuffy but attentive - they immediately seated us and took our coats. The set menu was way better than expected - no cheap options here, but decent starters such as smoked salmon and slow-cooked beef for mains...
The smoked salmon starter was delicate and tasty, served with sourdough and a generous dollop of horseradish. For my main, I had the seabass, trying to be healthy, and it was fab and not drowning in butter as it so often can be. I also appreciated the small portion size - men may not, but it felt like the right amount of food. I've been thinking recently how much portion sizes have started to get out of control - if you're having a three-course meal with bread to boot, you really don't need six potatoes to accompany your main. The one fondant potato on my plate was perfect and just right.
The other ladies went for the slow-cooked barbecue beef, which basically looked like heaven on a plate, and I was jealous. But you know, post-partum diet blah blah snore...
For puds, we all went for the chocolate fondant because, well, everyone knows from watching Masterchef that they're impossible to make at home, ergo you must order them when you go out. And it was just what you'd expect, chocolately and fondanty. In fact, the unexpected highlight for me was the pistachio ice cream on the top - bloody yum. And totally not in my diet plan but I decided I deserved it after missing out on the beef.
The waitress had got wind of the fact that it was Vicky's birthday (to be fair, she was carrying a rather huge bouquet of flowers) and just when we'd polished off our fondants, came over with a cute little cupcake complete with birthday candle. The pianist also started playing Happy Birthday in the background but no one sang along or clapped so it was lovely rather than cringeworthy.
We ordered some peppermint tea to finish and this came with a lovely little tray of petit fours. I like things like this. Maybe this is what makes me middle-aged now. But y'know, nice touches make all the difference.
All in all, I'd say that for £35 the set menu at the Winter Garden is a bloody bargain.
It's not the most exciting of destinations, and the ambience may be a bit better suited to the over 60s, but sometimes you just want proper grown-up food and to have a decent catch up with friends, in an unhurried and relaxed manner. And to be able to hear what they're saying without worrying that your two-hour table booking is nearly up. And sometimes you want to be in stumbling distance of the tube. And for all that, I'd say the Winter Garden is just the ticket.