Nathan Outlaw is clearly a fan of a family-owned hotel. The Cornish chef’s first outpost in London was Nathan Outlaw at The Capital; now he has upped sticks to Belgravia, the only neighbourhood that can trump Knightsbridge for snob value, and opened Siren at The Goring.
The siren was the mythical seashore creature whose song bewitched Odysseus; this siren should also be a warning signal to stay away if the idea of paying £36 for battered turbot is not your idea of a fish supper. But, really, what else would you expect from a hotel which hosts the Buckingham Palace Christmas party?
To say nothing of a hotel dining room that has been treated to a £4m refurb by Russell Sage Studio that has seen a high-spec version of a colour-supplement conservatory extension added to the spruced-up bar. With the windows thrown open over The Goring’s private lawn, you have the glorious impression of dining outside without the bother of insects and wobbly tables.
But this isn’t just a dining room for summer. Glass lobsters dangling from the ceiling clutch lightbulbs between their claws that flicker into life when it gets dark, candlight flickers from within glass sea urchins, the menus are made from faux sharkskin while the dinky chairs are upholstered in jazzy floral fabrics. It's not hard to see what £4m buys you.
Things got off to a tremendous start with homemade bread accompanied by light-as-air whipped cod’s roe, and a plate of buttery baked oysters. Starters proper were exceptional: a tomato and herb risotto covered in a snowfall of sweet Cornish crab meat, and two fat scallops in a puddle of orange sauce that matched the shellfish for sweetness.
Mains, alas, didn’t exhibit the same sure touch. Dover sole curling around the edges had not responded well to its filleting (to be fair, our charming waitress had advised that it be served on the bone). But although the clotted cream sauce was as luscious as it sounds, there was not a lot of fish for £56. Red mullet with devilled shrimp butter and chicory, meanwhile, didn’t live up to the zingy promise of its ingredients. Perhaps some simply grilled fish – the day’s catch presented to diners on a silver platter in the way that steak restaurants parade their choicest cuts – might have been better.
Full marks, though, for the chips drizzled with a garlic and parsley mayo (like the most luxe kebab sauce imaginable) and a perfectly custardy Cambridge burnt cream (aka crème brûlée) with the added bonus of a disc of sugar-dusted homemade shortbread for dunking.
Still, there are enough tourists hungry to eat in the hotel where the Duchess of Cambridge spent her last night as Kate Middleton and the Queen Mum’s favourite egg dish is on the menu. And the setting really is enchanting. We just wish that Nathan Outlaw would follow the lead of his former protégé, Tom Brown of Cornerstone, and open his own place in London.