14 January 2019
Walk two blocks north of Bond Street underground station and you will encounter one of London’s best-kept artistic secrets – the Wallace Collection. Located on Manchester Square, it houses an extensive collection of fine and decorative arts, and is free for anyone to visit. If this were not reason enough to visit, then the restaurant too is worth checking out. The inner courtyard of the Wallace Collection got a facelift (and a glass roof) in 2000, and here diners can find the Wallace. Billed as an all-day brasserie and operated by Peyton & Byrne (who are also behind the dining outlets at the National Gallery, Royal Academy etc.), this is an impressive offering. No art is visible from the Wallace, although diners do have to pass through several of the galleries in order to reach their destination. The space is light and airy (think high ceiling, pastel pink walls, pale wooden furniture and palm trees), ideal either for a croissant and coffee or a more serious meal. Retired art lovers make up the dominant demographic, so the vibe is hushed rather than buzzing. Perhaps in recognition of this, my comrade and I found the service somewhat slow and lacklustre on our recent lunchtime visit, although this was more than compensated for by the food. The menu is refreshingly brief, with the angle being to pay homage to classic French cooking but updated with a more modern twist. Diners get to choose from around five starters and mains, the former priced at around £10 and the latter close to £20. Vegetarians also get a great deal, with two courses on offer at lunch for just £18.50. I began with a smoked mackerel dish and followed this with another fish option; this time, a pan-roasted hake fillet, paired with leek velouté, caviar, radish and clementine. As the photo attests, huge emphasis is placed on presentation – perhaps the idea of food as art pervades – but what it gains in this respect is not lost in terms of taste. I was not only impressed with the visual aspect, but more fundamentally the daring combination of ingredients, which was delivered here with panache. Neither my comrade nor I could fault the taste or composition of any of our dishes. Word of warning, however: beyond the quibble over service, I would highly recommend visiting either in summer or dressing warmly for a visit in the winter months. A high-ceilinged conservatory-style courtyard may look very nice, but it can certainly get very cold in early January!