Grand Cafe Villandry

Tel: +44 (0) 20 7631 3131
Address:  170 Great Portland Street, W1W 5QB
Cuisine Type: Modern European
nearest tube stationGreat Portland Street

Villandry is more than just a restaurant – enter from the Great Portland Street side and you go through a bakery, deli and informal bar area before reaching the restaurant itself with its white linen, which can also be approached directly from Bolsover Street. On a fine day there are tables outside on both streets, depending on your fancy, with huge windows on the Bolsover Street side letting the outside in.

The menu is modern French but with a lot of other modern European influences, and that makes it ideal for either a quick light meal or something more substantial.

The menu is short and good. Starters range from £5.80 to £8.20, with some tempting offers: home made ricotta, beef carpaccio and pea shoots, for example, and grilled lemon grass prawns with mango, cashew nuts, cherry tomatoes and coriander salad.

We were short of time – the lunch interval of a business meeting – so stuck to one course, and the staff were terrific at taking our orders promptly and serving us with both speed and courtesy: not always happy bedfellows.

There are good options among the main courses for vegetarians, meat and fish lovers, from around the £14 mark up to £22.50 for an 8 oz, 28-day dry-aged Galloway fillet steak with chips and Bearnaise sauce. Popular options though were the grilled sea bass with a shaved fennel, organ and olive salad (£17.40) and grilled king scallops with leeks and a creamy saffron sauce (£19.80). There are also some platters, a sort of half way house between a starter and a main course.  The salmon platter  was excellent and good value at £13.20, though if you want a filling meal you need to think again: smoked, tartare and paté with a tiny dish of radish remoulade and some good rye bread, it was just right for me with a really delicious cherry tomato and onion side salad, perfectly dressed (£5.40).

Puddings (around £6) sound delectable, with some classics such as tarte tatin and crème brûlée but also some more unusual choices such as blood orange and campari sorbet.

As you would expect the wine list is mostly (but not exclusively) French and starts at a very reasonable £15 a bottle for Vin de Pays de Côte de Gascogne, St Jean.

Villandry was cheerfully busy at lunchtime with a mixture of business people, visitors and shoppers and it’s easy to see why – I will happily go back to sample more of an interesting and enticing menu, with lots of healthy choices.