Matching her food to the setting, masterchef Monica Galetti’s HQ displays restrained elegance throughout. The unassuming frontage of a Charlotte Street terrace conceals a ground-floor bar that is a destination in its own right, though star billing goes to the basement dining room, cleverly opened up to daylight by a double-height window and furnished with cool blue upholstered seating, mirrored walls and gold-edged tables that somehow look subtle.
She might have a reputation on TV as ‘Scary Monica’ but Galetti is lovely in person (she comes out to greet diners when she’s in the kitchen) and her front-of-house team, marshalled by husband David, offer easy manners and helpful suggestions when needed – and they know David’s wine list inside out.
The menu, meanwhile, reads like a shopping list you wish you made weekly: lobster, white anchovies, softshell crab, black garlic and heritage tomatoes might all feature. Sweet roast scallops are seasoned with salty, crispy chicken skin, paired with cauliflower and the gentle warmth of curried mayonnaise.
Butter-poached lobster is another triumphant layering of flavours and textures, dressed with heritage carrots, a crispy claw and coconut shavings and perfectly complemented by a mild peanut dressing and rich lobster bisque. It is generously portioned to boot – a whole crustacean per person.
Elsewhere, wild Cornish cod was moist and perfectly cooked, while veal sweetbreads were glazed in an umami-rich sauce cut through by the freshness of peas. Veggies who feel underserved by only one option per course might be better off with the six-course vegetarian tasting menu.
A killer line-up of puddings makes it hard to choose just one, but we’d recommend going for the lemon baked Alaska, delivered with a flourish of theatre. Vodka is warmed at the table before being set alight and poured over the meringue casing, toasting it as the alcohol burns off.
Make time to finish in the bar upstairs, with its rich petrol-coloured velvet seating and mixologists who give as much care to the drinks they serve as the kitchen does to the food it presents. There’s also a small menu of bar snacks that makes a comfortable start to any evening, whether dining at the restaurant or not.