The Grill, Brown's Hotel, Albemarle Street, London - Reviews - Food + Drink - The Independent

The Grill, Brown's Hotel, Albemarle Street, London

Mayfair marvel

Brown's is a venerable old warhorse of the London hotel trade. It's the capital's oldest operating five-star hotel, opened in 1837 (the year Victoria ascended the throne) by the enterprising James Brown, who was once Lord Byron's valet, and has been stuck for eons with slightly moth-eaten labels of "refinement" and "gentility", as if its natural clientele were maiden aunts and decrepit urban relics of landed gentry. After Rocco Forte took it over in 2003, it was given a £18m spring-clean by his sister, Olga Polizzi. Now they've given the Grill a hose-down, by calling in Mark Hix as director of food, along with Lee Streeton (who worked for him at Daphne's) as executive chef.

This leaves me in a dilemma, since Mr Hix is not just an old friend of the Independent, but supplies it with weekly recipes in this magazine. Can one be coldly objective about the new-look Grill and risk upsetting the highly strung forager-in-chief? I decided to risk it, and went along to lunch.

Stepping through the doors pitches you back to the days when hotel restaurants were places of alarm and intimidation: fusty catacombs with napery shrouds and harried waiters. The feeling wears off, though, when you see that it's very coolly designed: wood panelling, wood pillars, snow-white tablecloths, green chairs and vases of what look to be silk flowers but are strange, waxy tulips. The only mistake is the addition of some truly horrible arty photographs by one Hubertus von Hohenlohe – kitschy fashion pictures of shopping malls and expensive travels, like advertisements for the Martini Generation, they fatally disturb the classy green-white décor. But the French waiters were attentive, the home-made bread delicious (the salt flakes on the roundel of butter were a nice touch) and the menu a delight.

One can play a game here, spotting the signature dishes of the new director of food. Roasted scallops with hedgerow garlic, that's terribly Hix, the West Country aficionado of rustic sourcing. So is the Romney Marsh beetroot salad with Golden Cross goat's cheese, the rabbit braised in cider with garlic and the roasted Devon Red free-range chicken. For nostalgists, there are vestigial traces of the old Trust House Forte style in the battered haddock with mushy peas, and the "Olde English Sausage". The Grill section offers five variants of steak, lamb cutlets, liver and bacon – it's a restaurant that's almost belligerently hearty, and I found it irresistible.

My monkfish cheeks with caper mayonnaise were a revelation, four gorgeous brown lumps of battered monkfish, to be spritzed with lemon and eaten greedily. Who knew fish cheeks could be so substantial? And though I find capers excessively pungent as garnishes, these cut the mayo to perfection. Beside me, Madeleine was fainting with rapture over the Cornish fish soup, and I soon joined her: its depth of flavour was astonishing, its seasoning faultless, its touch of dill inspired, its slightly grainy texture obscurely sexy. Whatever's in the fish stock, I wish I could take it home. These were two first courses of simple ingredients, cooked to a condition I can only describe as perfection.

For the main course, I chose a wild fallow chop with braised red cabbage and prunes, because I'd never eaten fallow deer before. Expecting a single chop, I was amazed by the profusion of meat that appeared before me – three huge tranches of what resembled lamb steaks, roasted medium rare, the flesh a beautiful pink. Its taste was a puzzle – it lacked the pungent, velvet intensity of venison, or the fibrous smoulder of beef – but was given some character by prune-infused cabbage and some delicious bubble and squeak. Madeleine's fillet of cod with seashore vegetables and cockles drew fresh raptures. "The fish is delicious, and I've never tasted vegetables so crunchy and punchy and delicately flavoured at the same time," she said. "It's a lesson in how to make cod interesting."

Struggling to finish a fumingly cedarwood-y bottle of Cahors, we marvelled at the size of the helpings, each one enough for two or three lunchers, and agreed we couldn't possible handle a pudding. Unsleeping devotion to duty, however, made us share an apple crumble with custard, which resembled an ignorant catering slab from Desserts-U-Like, but tasted absolutely heavenly, the crumble as fine as sand. The custard, with its tiny kiss of vanilla, came in a silver boat – and when we'd emptied it, they brought another. It's that kind of place.

This was the tastiest, most enjoyable and by some way largest lunch I've eaten in months. The Grill may not win Michelin stars for Ferran Adria-style imagination or ambitiousness, but its commitment to British food, lovingly cooked to bring out its finest qualities, makes it an instant favourite. I'll go back as soon as possible.

The Grill Brown’s Hotel, 33 Albemarle Street, London W1 (020-7493 6020)

Food 4 stars
Ambience 4 stars
Service 5 stars

Around £130 for two with wine

Grills about town

Grill at the Dorchester

Aiden Byrne has breathed new life into The Grill with his sensational British cooking; mains include fillet of Angus beef with braised oxtail, watercress and glazed onions (£32).

53 Park Lane, London W1(020-7629 8888)

The Lincoln Grille

This recently launched addition to the Hoxton Grille stable sticks with the group’s winning formula: comforting, no-frills, well executed bistro classics.

The White Hart Hotel, Bailgate, Lincoln (01522 533500)

Gaucho Grill

The surroundings are opulent and glamorous, and the prime Argentine steaks are equally appealing: a 600g Gaucho sampler of four cuts of prime beef costs £31.

2a St Mary’s St, Manchester (0161-833 4333)

The Guinea Grill

Try a succulent, 28-day-aged Orkney Islands sirloin steak or one of the awardwinning pies in this raffish pub diningroom in Mayfair. Good selection of beers; around £40 per head.

30 Bruton Place, London W1(020-7499 1210)

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
filmMatt Damon in talks to return
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Life and Style
tech... and together they're worth at least £100 million
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig is believed to be donning skies as 007 for the first time
Arts and Entertainment
Fringe show: 'Cilla', with Sheridan Smith in the title role and Aneurin Barnard as her future husband Bobby Willis
tvEllen E Jones on ITV's 'Cilla'
Life and Style
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
tech(but you can't escape: Bono is always on your iPhone)
Sport
Tim Wiese
sport
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week