Right now, the hardest place to get a reservation for lunch or dinner in London might be this one: The Devonshire, in Denman Street, W1. I managed it not because I know anyone who might be able to pull some strings for me or because I could call in a favour or two but simply because I was happy to make a late booking for a 3pm lunch. Being a freelance journalist means no need to worry about pesky ‘normal’ office hours.
You enter the premises to find yourself in an old-fashioned London boozer. Granted, the prices are not old-fashioned and there are quite a number of patrons who look distinctly fashionable, but is has several draught beers. They are especially proud of their Guinness. Once in the restaurant upstairs, it is easy to figure one reason why bookings are so hard to come by – the dining room is definitely on the small side. But the food on offer provides ample evidence as to why this establishment, the brainchild of the renowned restaurateur, Oisin Rogers, has proved to be such a hit.
On the day I went there was a small set menu on offer – prawn and langoustine cocktail; skirt steak, chips and Bearnaise sauce; sticky toffee pudding. £29 for the three courses; £25 for two. I was tempted but didn’t. I started with a warm and tasty pea and ham soup followed by the dish you see above. I will concede that, balance-wise, this may not be ideal: perhaps a bit too pea and very much too pig. But that was my choice. I could equally have mixed it up with, say, confit tomato tart followed by the fillet of halibut. If I had I am sure it would have been terrific, too.
The photo on the home page shows the respective signs for The Devonshire and Zedel Brasserie, opposite each other on Sherwood Street, just north of Piccadilly Circus. Within Zedel is the Bar American. In the 1990s this was the Atlantic Bar & Grill, located in the glorious art-deco basement of the Regent Palace Hotel, which was where the original plans were formed to create what has become the annual autumn Frieze Art Fair. If not quite as glamorous as its forerunner was, the bar nevertheless does have about it a certain je ne sais quoi: like one might be on an old-fashioned (that phrase again!) luxury liner or that you have somehow turned up in a Hercule Poirot mystery. Which I guess is fine, provided your role is not that of the victim…