Friends were down from Newcastle for the weekend and given that up North a fish and chip shop is the closest thing to fine dining, I’d promised to take them somewhere special. There’s few places better in London for this than The Delaunay. As the younger sister of The Wolseley it is of course a classy establishment, but it’s also a lot more laid back. The Wolseley a little bit too much ‘we are next door to the Ritz’, whereas here, situated right in the heart of theatre-land in Aldwych, you feel just as welcome to come in for a coffee and read of the paper, as you do to get dressed up for an evening meal.
From the doorman in tops and tails to the grand dining room, everything here is luxurious. A few weeks ago I dined at Bob Bob Ricard which also has a train carriage feel, but the difference between the two is like that between the London tube and the Orient Express. The Delaunay really does trump it in every way. It’s the small touches that enhance the experience here; you just have to feel the weight of the pepper grinder to know that the type of place you’re dining in. Given these surroundings, the menu is reasonably priced with most mains coming under the £20 mark. It’s an eclectic menu with a strong Germanic nod. Plenty of wieners and schnitzels. Even a wiener schnitzel!
To start I had the Roast Squash Salad with Quail Eggs, Pecorino and Chestnuts (£8.50). Everything worked here with lots of textures and flavours that came together with a light mustardy dressing.
My partner had the Steak Tartare (£10.95), which comes with a bright orange raw egg yolk on top of the finely diced steak. With a slice of good sourdough toast this was as good as this dish can get.
For main I had the Braised Shoulder of Lamb,White Beans and Paprika Sausage (£19.75), which came as a stew. It didn’t look like the biggest portion but it was so rich that it soon filled me. The meat was tender and with the uniformly sized diced carrots this was a fine stew , but I’d have liked more of a paprika hit. It was just lacking a little bit more depth. Also given the thinness of the sauce, it needed some rice to soak it up. Putting this all onto a plate made for awkward eating.
My partner had the Fillet of Beef Stroganoff (£21.75). She had this last time and loved it, and it was the same again. It’s a really rich sauce with a strong hit of mushroom. They could have been more generous with the rice though, as the clump on the side wasn’t enough to soak up all the sauce.
My friend had the Rib-eye steak with fries and béarnaise sauce (£27.50). It was a decent steak, but some distance of the heights of Hawksmoor. There’s a lot of other things on the menu that I’d recommend before going for this, as you can have a decent steak in most restaurants.
Instead I’d go for one of the schnitzels, which are a real speciality here. My friend had the Holstein schnitzel (£22.75), topped with a fried egg and anchovies. I’ve got no idea where else you can get this in London, certainly not better than they do it here. You might think this is expensive for something Bernard Matthews could give you for about one tenth of the price, but you’ve just got to try it to see how far veal, rolled in breadcrumbs and lightly fried, can go. It really is top notch.
For pudding I shared the Kinder Sundae- raspberry, vanilla and chocolate ice creams, whipped cream, marshmallows, meringue and chocolate sauce (£8.95). There wasn’t as much texture as I would have liked, and the crunch of the meringues was lost on me, but that didn’t stop me from scraping it clean.
We also had the Apple & Walnut Strudel with vanilla ice cream (£7.95). I was hoping for a Hans Landa in Inglorious Basterds style crunch from the pastry, but instead it was a bit flaky and soft. It was a bit heavy handed on the cinnamon, so that the other flavours on the plate were overpowered.
We also shared the Lingonberry and Pear Crumble with custard (£7.50), which was far too heavy on the crumble making it a stodgy pudding, so much so that we couldn’t even finish it. I’d never had lingonberry before, and I was hoping for some strong berry flavour, but all that came through here was the mass of crumble.
The bill came to £60 per head with a couple of glasses of wine each. Not too bad given just how impressive the restaurant is. The £2 cover charge on top of 12.5% service seems unnecessary. I’ve got no idea what it’s for. And I’d say that the service was perhaps the only slight let down. The waitress seemed to be experimenting to see how high she could pour the water from without spilling it all over the table. She obviously hadn’t been practising for very long. And on top of that it was a bit neglectful. But apart from this it was again a fantastic meal, one that will remain top of my list when a special occasion comes along.
55 Aldwych, London WC2B 4BB