Mews of Mayfair
I missed Restaurant Week in London last year. Granted, my life in Sydney was virtually one continuous Restaurant Week as I sampled the culinary delights the city had to offer from the carefully crafted list given to me on arrival by a colleague. But I was still sad to miss out on the week when some of the most exciting restaurants in the West End and Soho offer special set menus brandishing 2 courses and a glass of wine for under £20.
The problem – to describe it as a “problem” is ridiculous really, but a problem it is nonetheless – with Restaurant Week is the sheer amount of choice. It’s nigh on impossible to decide which restaurant to sample, and unless you take a couple of days off work and fill them and your weekend with dining, your list of “Places to Dine” will undoubtedly have increased by the end of it, even if you do manage to tick off a couple of hotspots. Still, at least it’s given me more material.
I left the choice up to my long-time fellow dining devotee and partner in crime, Emily, and eventually we selected Mews of Mayfair. Situated in an alleyway off a secluded cobbled courtyard, which is tightly packed with tables, we were shown to the brasserie upstairs and seated by the window. The alley below is so small, you can easily see into the pizza restaurant opposite – I could even decipher the wine list, and it feels like you’re in a cloistered backstreet of a continental city rather than a few steps away from Regent Street.
Some people are wary of set menus because they resent the forced choices or worry the quality of food won’t be as good. This hasn’t been my experience in the past. Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of the menu, but between us we sampled almost all of it (including both special wines).
To start I had the truffled asparagus and Emily had the raw beef, both of which were delicious and fantastically well presented. For mains, I had the hake and Emily the pork belly – there was barely any fat on it which is always what puts me off pork belly – and we were both full of praise as we polished off our plates. I think these combinations were the perfect pairing too – truffled asparagus and pork belly would have been too rich for one person, and raw beef followed by hake may have felt a bit unadventurous.
The portion sizes were clearly crafted to ensure we had just enough room to contemplate a dessert (which wasn’t included in the set menu). Neither of us really wanted a full plate, so we opted for the banoffee pie for two… and since the menu said it was for two we expected it to be appropriately sized. We are absolutely flabbergasted when the dapper waiter delivered an entire pie – the size of one of those readymade cakes you can buy in the supermarket, which serve about six people! The waiters have clearly seen people react with shock and embarrassment at the size of this dessert before, but even they couldn’t stifle a giggle as Emily and I simultaneously exclaimed “Oh my God!” when it was placed in front of us. I was so shocked I didn’t even take a picture.
Granted, much of it was cream, but it was still enormous. We did our best but could only manage one third of it between us – it was absolutely delicious. I’m sad to think the rest of it was wasted though; I’d recommend they rethink the size of this dessert because I can’t believe that two diners are able to finish it very often, which means it must get wasted quite frequently.
After dinner, we moved down to one of the alleyway tables for a Spritz (it’s amazing how different a spritz can taste in different places considering the basic ingredients are the same). It was prime people-watching territory down here as we rubbed shoulders with young men with too much money and not-so-young ladies squeezed into bodycon dresses with eyelashes so long they brush their foreheads. Typical mayfair – a certain brand of slightly snooty fun!