a few weeks ago i had the pleasure of dining with my sister at the new villandry near st. james’s. having long been a fan of villandry’s original food emporium and grand café on great portland street in fitzrovia, i was excited to visit this new outpost and see how it compared.
the all-day restaurant, ideally located just off pall mall to the south of piccadilly, is housed in a stunning 1913 edwardian baroque building that was once a bank, and is one of the first new restaurants in an area which is currently being upgraded by the crown estate to offer a wide parisian-style avenue of shops and dining halls with outdoor seating.
the entrance leads to a welcoming and seductive patisserie counter and cocktail bar in a double height café area on the lower floor, and a more formal and elegant restaurant on the mezzanine level beneath a beautiful original skylight. the interior is furnished with bespoke mirrors, flooring, lighting and furniture designed by willy nickerson in the style of traditional european grand cafés, mixing shades of mustard and black with fire red and touches of gold to give the large interior space a feeling of warmth and elegance.
with sensational views across the park to big ben, the downstairs dining hall has all the charm of the traditional grand cafés you would find across paris, and so naturally the menu is heavily french-influenced, with plenty of southern riviera and mediterranean flourishes.
seated upstairs in the more refined dining area, my sister and i indulged ourselves with this wonderful monday night 3-course treat, opting for salt and pepper squid with tartare sauce (delicious!) plus a lighter fresh dish of asparagus and poached egg to start, the latter elevated to new heights with the addition of parmesan cheese and truffle oil to really add some punch to the flavours. to follow my sister chose the grilled sea bass, served on a bed of artichoke, broad beans, olives, sun-dried tomato and green beans and garnished with quail eggs, whilst on our hostess’ recommendation i went for a truly decadent monday night steak. served with a truly spot-on béarnaise sauce and garlicky crushed potatoes it was the perfect way to kick of the week in style!
starters: salt & pepper squid with tartare sauce; asparagus & poached egg with parmesan cheese & truffle oil
mains: grilled sea bass with artichoke, broad beans, olives, sun-dried tomato, green beans & quail eggs; fillet of beef with béarnaise sauce & crushed potatoes
dessert: raspberry & white chocolate crème brûlée with pistachio shortbread; warm chocolate fondant with vanilla ice cream
we barely had room to fit in dessert after the first two fantastic courses but i’m so glad we were persuaded to indulge further; the raspberry and white chocolate crème brûlée had a perfectly browned shell of sugar just begging to be cracked (with a very satisfying crack!) and was served with delightfully moreish pistachio shortbread that was soft and crumbly inside. my sister assured me her warm chocolate fondant was equally delicious but i wouldn’t know – it was gone before i could blink, which is surely a very good sign…
villandry st. james’s, 12 waterloo place, sw1