Step off atmospheric St Swithin’s Street into The Don’s spacious foyer and prepare yourself for the sort of assured, personable and utterly grown-up experience that is a rarity among independent restaurants these days. Much of this is down to owners Robert and Robyn Wilson, who have been at the helm here for more than 18 years and in whom a veritable army of loyal City lunchers still place their trust.
With its vivid bursts of abstract artwork from John Hoyland, the well-spaced dining room has a personality that many of its corporate neighbours lack – and it’s adroitly manned by an ever-smooth team of waiting staff. The menu is a classic mix of British, French and Modern-European dishes, from beef fillet with brioche crouton, fondant potatoes, seared foie gras and truffled Madeira sauce, to Cornish cod with salt-baked celeriac purée, brown shrimps and parsley velouté. A perfectly executed crème brûlée is one of a few well-chosen desserts. Our only complaint is that portion sizes don’t always do justice to the City prices.
The Wilsons are Kiwi vintners, and their love of wine is reflected in a lengthy global list, including bottles from their Trinity Hill vineyard in New Zealand. For a less formal experience, the Don Bistro downstairs offers a pleasing menu led by British seasonal produce, while the bar serves 30 wines by the glass alongside Adnams beer. We’d also suggest calling in at their sister site, St Swithins Wine Shippers, where four dozen wines are available to sample from an Enomatic machine.