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.
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