SquareMeal Review of
Neptune is the dining room of The Principal hotel, a grand Empire-era pile overlooking Russell Square that outdoes St Pancras for gothic drama. With high Victorian being about as fashionable a design trope these days as a noughties feature wall, Russell Sage Studio has gone for an almost mid-century Tiki look – rattan-backed bar stools, dusty pink walls, boldly patterned fabrics – although you can still spot plaster cherubs peeking from behind the fronds of tropical greenery like orphans in a Victorian ghost story.
Neptune comes courtesy of chef Brett Redman and stylist Margaret Crow, who were a big hit on the east London party scene with The Richmond pub and its oyster happy hours. They’ve stuck with the seafood theme here, although with half the main courses involving meat from the wood-fired grill, the menu is not exclusively fish-focused.
A swimmingly fresh seafood platter accompanied by soda bread and seaweed butter was the best thing we ate, not least for the zip and zing of a trout tartare and mackerel escabeche; we were grateful to the waiter who took our crab legs away to be cracked by the chef so we didn’t miss a flake of the snowy white meat – a typically thoughtful touch from staff who showed consideration throughout the meal.
Nothing else we tried had such shimmering flavours; monkfish with white asparagus, brown butter and chicken sauce, and turbot with fennel, courgettes and an olive-oil hollandaise, were competent rather than compelling, while a plate of grilled red prawns had lost their firm texture, if not their sweet taste. There’s also a short vegetarian menu and, to drink, a wine list of natural and low-intervention wines – another individual touch at a restaurant that brings a welcome flourish of glamour and personality to Bloomsbury.
Neptune is recommended for