Spring! As the first rays of life-giving sun hit your upturned cheeks and the nights recede into long placid evenings with the promise of chilled rose wine. A thousand BBQ's rumble out of garages, the long forgotten, rusty and oil stained armoured vanguard of summer. Spring! A time of salads and green and the lightest of touches. Spring! The perfect time to visit a gentleman's club inspired grill restaurant then… ah. No.. sadly not.
I'd had the Reform Social highlighted to me by a number of people back in the depths of winter (i.e. various points in the last 12 months) and the reports had all said broadly the same thing. Pretty decent food, if heavy on the meat and puddings, and a dark, clubby, cocoon of a space with snug leather seating you could drown in.
In summary, ideal for a long gentleman's luncheon before the weather breaks for the better… Well I'm no follower of fashion (just look at my wardrobe) and that's why I'd waited until the first fragrant days of warmth and light before pulling on my crushed velvet smoking jacket, adjusting my monocle and finding a saucy young slip of a gel to entertain.
Slotted underneath the Mandeville Hotel just off Marylebone High Street, the hotelish (and not entirely in a good way) bar was our first entry point. The way robustly blocked by a florid and fully padded post work crowd enjoying a discount deal on fizz we squeezed uncomfortably through to the dining room at the other side of the lounge.
Here I was pleased to see a full crowd of mixed ages. My gentleman's jacket wouldn't have looked entirely out of place, but neither were we marooned in fuddy-duddy land. The table of birthday partying hipsters and a gaggle of courting couples dining gave our section of the long dark room a gentle (and genteel) buzz.
Things started very well with a crisp, clean and perfectly cooked duck ‘Scotch’ egg, wrapped in a pliant and piquant black pudding shell. It clashed with an unnecessary trough of apple sauce, but solo was note perfect.
The mains sadly were less accomplished in their delivery. Both arrived on a generic root vegetable puree, hay cooked hake was a fine piece of fish, but smokier and saltier than a Glaswegian sailors mission. Stuffed lamb breast, a substitution for the stout sounding Angus rose veal chop I'd been salivating for, came as an underwelmingly small and fatty roulade filled with a fishy breadcrumb mix and topped bafflingly with tight and over-battered scampi, an odd mix that did none of the constituent parts justice. A side of pumpkin with chilli and sage gave none of the flavour of either and was verging on undercooked to boot. There's a good looking grill section here filled with some handsomely sourced cuts. I can only blame our ordering for missing them out.
Thankfully there was a knowing hand on the desserts, reason almost to return in themselves. My Bakewell Pudding, a crispy puck of choux filled with tart fruit and covered in thick vanilla custard the colour and consistency of whipped butter. A darkly decadent chocolate and blood orange pot was equally moreish. Given what I saw of the cocktails, I'm tempted to return for a lush's afternoon tea combining the two.
On a slight negative note, there was a noticeable level of fractiousness among the front of house team, commands and critiques hissed not sotto voce enough to be unheard as the harried team flew around us. It wasn't ideal. They were pretty good face to face, just less so when talking to each other.
There's less knowing cool than at that other modern bastions of of 'private member's-chic' like Dean Street Townhouse and Hawksmoor (both of whom definitely hosted planning meetings for this place) but that's not necessarily a bad thing. It doesn't do it quite as well as the aforementioned, but does well enough at a reasonable price that you won't probably shouldn't mind.