Lutyens: Solid, but unspectacular (September 2015)

Perhaps the location says it all: almost opposite the offices of Goldman Sachs and barely a stone’s throw from many barristers’ chambers, Lutyens knows its target market and caters appropriately to them. It delivers, and there was nothing to fault the place, but prices are - unsurprisingly - far from cheap and the experience was not sufficiently memorable to merit a specific return visit. In terms of design, we are in familiar Terence Conran territory, with a clear nod to the art déco. The danger, however, of a grand and spacious room is that when it is not full (as was the case on our visit), the place felt somewhat lacking in buzz or atmosphere. There seemed to be too many staff on hand relative to diners and indeed I felt myself unfairly hassled when it came to choosing the wine. On this note, the list is among the most impressive I have seen in London, but certainly doesn’t cater for those on more modest budgets. One struggles to find many bottles below £40 and there is a clear bias towards traditional France. In terms of the menu, it is brief and represents a mix of broadly traditional English and French dishes. Starters are priced at around £10-15 and mains are in the £20-35 bracket. Without even including water, sides, service etc., it is easy to see how the bill can mount. My starter of warm smoked eel was presented beautifully and while the fish itself was juicy and satisfying, there did not seem to be too much element of smoking and the accompanying fermented cucumber amounted to just two pieces. For the main, it was a delight to see grouse on the menu, but this rendering of it was notably inferior to another recent experience of the same bird at St John. Gone was much of the classic game flavour and the grouse meat packaged into sausage format as part of the presentation seemed over-engineered with the addition of pastry unnecessary. The dishes selected by my comrades (mixed salad and crab starters followed by mains of steak and chicken) fared similarly, some high points and others not so high. This seems a fair summary of the overall experience.