LONDON – The Wolseley looks to be a very old, established London restaurant, but in truth it’s only been around since 2003.
The ornately appointed building it occupies, however, is another matter. It’s provenance goes back a hundred years, still young by British standards, when it opened as, of all things, a car showroom. But the cars weren’t selling very well in 1926 and company went bankrupt. So a bank moved in, Barclay’s, to be precise, and occupied it until the turn of the century.
It looks much more like a bank than a car showroom with tall, dark-wood columns and lots of polished granite; a sumptuous space. Before the Wolseley moved in it had been a Chinese restaurant and oddly some of the chinoiserie has been kept on.
The Wolseley has earned its reputation for serving exquisite food, and it continues to this day. My meal there was among the finest I’ve had in London.
We started with appetizers of herring with beetroots and pickeled onions, and chopped liver topped with chopped hard-boiled eggs and served with wafer crackers (though it was better with the freshly baked bread we were offered upon seating).
For my entree I chose the smoked haddock Monte Carlo, lightly smoked firm fillets served with a poached egg and topped with tomato concasse, floating in a rich and buttery wine sauce.
My companion chose a special of the day of navarin of lamb, a stew featuring tender hunks of meat with sweet peas, baby carrots, bright green asparagus and the slightest hint of mint.
Service was old school but unstuffy. It’s definitely a special occasion restaurant, but since when isn’t just being in London a special occasion?
Details at The Wolseley’s website.