As longer term readers of LPA may recall, last summer I shared my thoughts on the seafood at Villandry’s Great Portland Street restaurant. It wasn’t the first time I’d visited and it certainly hasn’t been the only time I’ve been back since. My most recent return was, however, to the shiny new Villandry in St James’. The press release promised a different dining experience and I was intrigued to see if they delivered. I’ll admit that I was slightly sceptical as to whether they would, I mean we’re talking two restaurants owned by the same chain with the same name within about ten minutes of one another after all. Within seconds of arriving at Villandry’s vast, brasserie style outpost on Waterloo Place it was pretty clear that my scepticism was unfounded.
The place itself is impressive, to say the very least. The first restaurant to open as part of Crown Estate’s project to transform Waterloo Place, Lower Regents Street into a wide Parisian inspired avenue with new eateries, shops and laid back outdoor seating (a scheme I’m fully on board with) Villandry is housed inside a very grand Edwardian baroque building. Inside the opulence continues by way of high ceilings, old school mirrored walls, antique lamps and luxe red leather booths; a striking contrast from Great Portland Street’s more informal, café chic vibe.
After a quick snoop around we set about ordering wine which, thanks to the very knowledgeable and obliging sommelier turned into a fairly lengthy sampling session, never a bad thing in my opinion. After finally settling on the delectable Reserve Mouton Cadet Graves Blanc our attention turned to food. As I’m sure you guys know by now, I’m an absolute sucker for seafood and can never say no to Salmon Tartare so obviously that was my starter of choice. I’ve eaten a lot of tartare in my time and this one was excellent, nicely navigating the challenge of being juicy without turning into an oozing oil fest. My wining and dining companion went for the Salt & Pepper Squid with Tartate Sauce. This dish is less my cup of tea but if the fact he inhaled it in about thirty seconds is anything to go by, Villandry St James’ nailed it.
Salt & Pepper Squid with Tartare Sauce
When it came to the main I had forced myself to forgo the Grilled Seabass with Artichoke, Broad Beans, Olives, Sundried Tomatoes, Green Beans & Quail Eggs AKA my go-to dish and what I’ve ordered at Villandry Great Portland Street basically every time I’ve ever been there. Instead I opted for the King Scallops with Pesto & Summer Vegetables. Scallops are one of my favourite things of all time but can be high risk; done badly they are nothing short of disgusting. Luckily this wasn’t the case but while I thoroughly enjoyed them, my dish was nothing on Lukas’. In celebration of the World Cup Brazilian Villandry’s special of the week was a Marinated Fillet served with Rice, Feijoada and Banana Plantain. This is a dish I would never even consider ordering for myself but it turned out to be utterly delicious. Banana plantain is definitely something I’ll be sampling again soon and its presentation was perfection.
Kind Scallops with Summer Vegetables
Marinated fillet served with Rice, Feijoada and Banana Plantain
Despite being pretty stuffed by this point (FYI Villandry’s seed rolls are excellent) it seemed stupid not to at least try one of the desserts. We decided to try the haute twist on Strawberries & Cream that Villandry were offering during Wimbledon. How you make strawberries and cream anything other than, well, strawberries and cream must have been a challenge but they did a tasty job of it was some sort of sinfully rich ice cream/cream hybrid, the sweetest berries imaginable and freshly baked seed biscuits.
Strawberries & Cream
All in all, I would say Villandry St James’ is a success on every level. Magnificent design, good food, fantastic service and reasonable prices – our meal came in somewhere around £120 – and different enough from its Great Portland Street counterpart to warrant visiting both, possibly even during the same week.
Villandry St James can be found at 12 Waterloo Place, south of Piccadilly just off Pall Mall.
Love Ella. X