Fine dining from a chef par excellence
Category : Restaurant
| Cuisine : Modern European
Opening Times : Tue-Sat 12pm-2.30pm & 6pm-10.30pm
Closest Tube : Bond Street, Oxford Street
Alyn Williams has arrived. After earning the trust and approbation of star chefs including Gordon Ramsay, Angela Hartnett and Marcus Wareing, Mr Williams has proved with his hard-won talent that he‘s more than equal to the job of running a wildly successful restaurant all by his lonesome. Since opening Alyn Williams at the Westbury in Autumn 2011, he has moved from strength to strength, securing a Michelin star before winning the accolade of National Chef of the Year 2012 from the Craft Guild of Chefs. However, all pomp and pageantry aside, to dine at Alyn Williams at The Westbury is to witness a world-class chef at the top of his game. Our experience there easily matched our expectations. In fact, it surpassed them.
Upon entering the dining room one is immediately struck by its quiet elegance. It imparts the traditional glamour of fine dining without any fussiness or stuffiness. A well-armed cheese cart navigates the floor, with a small bar in the centre breaking up the uniformity. Details such as comfy curvilinear velvet chairs and rosewood pillars bestow the room with an air of privacy. For extra exclusivity, there are two amazing fine dining rooms including the Wine Salon, where guests are invited to select a bottle from which Alyn will create a totally bespoke menu for the group.
This kind of easy innovation is apparent in all areas of his cooking. Though he already has some quite substantial laurels to rest on, he is constantly reworking and reimagining the menu, as well as importing other culinary wunderkinds into the kitchen for special, one-off events. On our visit, we opted for the A La Carte menu, which is astonishingly reasonable for a restaurant of this calibre in moneyed Mayfair, costing £55 for an alleged three courses. However, tallying up the amuse bouche, palate cleansers and petit fours, it takes on tasting menu dimensions. If you would rather opt for the latter, it‘s also alluringly priced, at a demure £65 for seven courses.
Starters are delicately arranged and bold in flavour. Crispy veal sweetbreads with chicken wings, summer truffle, kohlrabi, lemon and vanilla provided an earthy, punchy introduction to the meal. Almost every course leaned heavily on seasonal and foraged vegetables and one of the star ingredients of my main - a fillet of Cornish turbot complemented with a truffle-lashed corn and mussel chowder - was ‘fat hen‘, often considered a weed. There was nothing parasitic about its presence on the table. Tempura battered and studded with tarragon hollandaise, it was the perfect textural foil to the turbot‘s fleshy sensuousness. The real coup de grace, though, was the walnut whip, a dessert which has quickly become one of Mr Williams‘ culinary calling cards. I was very grateful to the sommelier for steering me in its direction.
Perhaps it‘s due to the fact that Williams spent a few years behind the scenes while his colleagues received the limelight, or perhaps he just has a knack for HR, but it‘s glaringly apparent that he‘s taken pains to assemble a talented staff. Everybody from the sommelier to our waiter to restaurant manager Giancarlo Princigalli were astute, effusive and impassioned in describing the food, with quite a few suggestions spilling over into full-blown conversations. If one is only as good as their team, Alyn Williams is very good indeed.