The Square

Tel: +44 (0)20 7495 7100
Address: 6-10 Bruton Street, W1J 6PY
Cuisine Type: French
nearest tube station Bond Street

As far as addresses go, few are smarter than Mayfair and on Bruton Street and The Square is in the thick of the action. At first glance the restaurant may not appear to be as luxuriously appointed as its two-Michelin-star peers. Instead of marble, gilt, leather, plush and chandeliers, The Square focuses more on a comfortable, expansive and lively atmosphere.

Philip Howard is the head chef at London’s exemplar of fine French dining. On arrival, the maitre d’ welcomed us by offering us a drink at the bar – clearly hinting at a champagne cocktail – as our table was not ready. Then, miraculously, the table was available within a minute of our drinks arriving.

We were led to our nicely positioned table – central and to the side of the dining area. The room, although modern, was dark; and throughout the night the lights were dimmed regularly, creating a more intimate atmosphere.

Our sommelier was pleasant and this was something I was a little apprehensive about. The manner of the sommeliers is something frequently commented on by diners at The Square. Apparently, they can be quite curt, so all I can say is that on this occasion we were fortunate. The extensive wine list – connoisseurs will love it, even if the top end is only suitable for expense accounts – and a wonderful ambience created the perfect mood. We had the Amarone 1995 – an excellent choice.

The waiters were interesting to watch. They all seemed incredibly busy, yet always aware of each table. On returning from the bathroom, there was someone on hand to scoot across and seat you, while furnishing you with a fresh napkin. They poured the wine and mineral water on cue – as if it was a rehearsed performance – but made it attentive and not obtrusive. I have never experienced service like it.

Between two of us we had scallops and caviar to start. I opted for the tournedos Rossini with foie gras and my girlfriend chose the herb-crusted saddle of lamb with shallot purée and rosemary. For dessert, strawberries with a champagne sauce and a soufflé. Everything was timed to perfection, nibbles arrived between each course – just enough to whet your appetite for the next round.

A three course meal with wine (£45) came to £250. Yes, it is pricey and you should not expect to eat there for the guide price of £69 (three-course à la carte menu £50; seven-course tasting menu £70). Still, you could not fault this restaurant. The food was exquisite and the staff impeccable. The flawless selection of food, sauces and wine make it a restaurant difficult to top.

The prix-fixe lunch menu (£20 for two courses, £25 for three) is an interesting testing ground for new creations, such as velouté of girolles with Cornish prawns and mixed grill of fish with crushed borlotti beans and baby leeks. It certainly provides an alternative to an extravagant dinner. However, we went for a special occasion and left thinking the whole experience was worth every penny.

– Robert Shepherd, 9/2003