Restaurants: Where shall we meet in Mayfair?

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The Independent Culture
The Lord only knows what Guevara would make of Che. One can't help but feel that the sort of people it's designed for are exactly those whom he struggled to rid Cuba of. But despite the anti-revolutionary decadence, Mayfair's latest temple to luxury is divine. Time spent there - from the name-check at the door that informed the greeters by the time one reached the magnificent escalators, to the man who found us a taxi in the rain - was unadulterated pleasure.

Several things rang alarm bells at first, not least the fact that this restaurant-bar-cigar lounge is in a 1960s office block. But architects Fletcher Priest have given it enough Nineties flourishes to leave you feeling that you are in sharp New York, not scruffy old London, and a combination of expert lighting and generous table spacing give a remarkable impression of intimacy.

The menu is the sort of thing that wrings groans from food writers: any chef who has Thai green curry and steak-and-kidney pie side by side has to be either very confident or working for a chain that advertises on local radio. Fortunately, James Kirby is the former, and the food is fantastic. Neither I nor my companion will forget the spiced duck with sauce dolce forte and roasted fruits and vegetables: sweet, savoury and spiced, the skin crisped to perfection and a side dish of mashed spuds to mop up the gravy.

Downstairs is an elegant bar that claims to serve 1,000 cocktails, though we only got through two. Again, an illusion of endless space and comfort prevailed, in stark contrast to the banquette-filled gloom of the basement cigar lounge; around 20 of the Havanas available here date from the pre- Castro era. In a corner hangs a single picture of the eponymous revolutionary, one of a collection that, changing at a three-monthly rate, will take nine years to get through. All a bit depressing, no doubt, for Guevara, but for the sybarites of the world, a great step forward.

Che, 23 St James's St, London SW1 (0171-747 9380)


Les Saveurs de Jean-Christophe Novelli

37a Curzon St, London W1 (0171-491 8919)


56 Curzon St, London W1 (0171-499 4636)


85 Piccadilly, London W1 (0171-491 2222)


20 Mount St, London W1 (0171-629 5248)