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Apsley's Review

Chris Pople chooses the à la carte menu at Apsley’s, but is served a plate of disappointment

Written by . Published on August 2nd 2011.

Apsley's Review

BEFORE I go into the sordid details of just how much a meal for two people at Apsley's can cost, I should, in the interest of fairness, point out that they do a three course menu with a glass of fizz for £35, which, for lunch, in one of London's most prestigious hotels, (the imposing, gleaming white Lanesborough on Hyde Park Corner) isn't bad. And taking one look at the scruffy individual shuffling through reception on Saturday, it was just this cheaper menu the staff showed me first, only bringing out the full à la carte when I specifically asked for it. I suppose I can't blame them for jumping to certain conclusions regarding my likelihood of getting all spendy, especially next to the well-groomed international kids and captains of industry that were my fellow diners on Saturday, but even so, it all made me feel a bit self-conscious. If you're going to have a ludicrously expensive à la carte, at least go through the motions of showing the damn thing to me first; if I then freak out and settle for the bridge and tunnel menu, at least that's my choice. "I'll show them," I thought as the weighty, leather-bound Menu Prestige was finally produced. "How dare they assume I'm too cheap to spend £30 on a starter?”

And while we'd enjoyed parts of our meal, not much other than the lobster tagliolini and perhaps the barmy-but-impressive fish crudo were worth the bold figures attached to them.

Amuseminiveal BurgerMini veal burger

While our ordered courses were prepared, we were treated to a miniature veal burger, which looked amusing enough but tasted only OK; the veal was warm and inoffensive, but the bun was a bit dry. This was strange considering the stunning quality of the house bread, particularly a bouncy, rich focaccia and a soft, brown bread with delicate crust straight out of the oven. The house olive oil is also worth mentioning, grassy and smooth and clearly of very high quality.

Fish crudo starterFish crudo starter

"It's kind of like sushi," our waitress modestly replied when I asked her what the fish crudo starter was. I don't quite know what I expected, but something approaching the stunning raw seafood selection at Bocca di Lupo would have sufficed, only perhaps a bit tarted up to justify the £30 price tag. What arrived was various types of fish and seafood delicately placed in the middle of nine individual dishes, which swamped our quite large table and made me feel even more like Mr. Creosote than I already did. By and large they were good; it's impossible to remember every detail, but I particularly enjoyed a tuna and grapefruit combo and a couple of dainty rolls of sea bass. Scallops weren't so successful – rather slimy and tasteless – and I don't think a big fat oyster needed any messing about with, just serve it straight up and try and keep more of the salty juices in please, but it was certainly a spectacular way to start the meal. Unfortunately, my friend didn't fare so well with her langoustines; even a fairly lavish plate of food would have looked a bit miserly next to my own tasting-menu-in-a-course, but it wasn't so much the appearance, as the fact that the langoustines themselves were overcooked – a fairly unforgivable error for such a smart and expensive restaurant.

Monkfish Spaghetti With Red Peppers And CourgettesMonkfish spaghetti with red peppers and courgettes

Service tripped up a bit by the time we got to the Primi, as after a fairly lengthy wait (not made any easier by nobody refilling our empty glasses; listen, restaurants of London – if you insist on keeping my white wine in an ice bucket out of sight then fine, but you'd better keep a bloody good watch on my glass) they brought out one dish we didn't order. The unordered monkfish spaghetti (they let us keep it at no extra charge) was actually very good, a powerful seafood stock helping create a lovely rich flavour and the chunks of fish were tender and well-seasoned, but my friend's pea soup with lobster wasn't so enjoyable – the ‘soup’, was bland and way too thick, and the plate, scattered with quinoa for reasons known only to Apsleys, looked ugly. When it finally did arrive ten minutes or so later, though, the lobster tagliolini was genuinely superb, containing generous chunks of lobster and livened by fresh pesto and summer vegetables; it was a real delight.

Pigeon, Artichoke And Mustard Seed SaucePigeon, artichoke and mustard seed sauce

It was an uneven meal up to this point, though, and one that didn't much improve with the arrival of the secondi. My pigeon was fine I suppose, tender, if rather tasteless and surrounded by a thin but surprisingly greasy layer of puff pastry and a slice of watery artichoke. I'd be a lot easier on it, perhaps, if it didn't cost a whacking £36 – there wasn't much to justify the price tag in terms of quality of ingredients or preparation. My friends suckling pig was also declared ‘dull’, having not much in the way of porky flavour and presented weirdly with sugar snap peas(!), although the way they'd created medallions wrapped with a thin layer of crispy crackling was quite clever. It cost £34.


Stuffed by this point, though hardly otherwise satisfied, we skipped dessert in lieu of a cheeky digestif and gingerly asked for the bill. Had we ploughed on with dessert, and God forbid even cheese, the total could have reached even more catastrophic levels, but bearing in mind we'd had just one bottle of one of the cheaper wines and the welcome glasses of prosecco were on the house, it still came to a frankly silly £230 for two. And while we'd enjoyed parts of our meal, not much other than the lobster tagliolini and perhaps the barmy-but-impressive fish crudo were worth the bold figures attached to them. Even spending someone else's money I felt mildly violated, and while I appreciate the prices may be reflecting the location and the setting (it is a lovely room) just as much as the food we were served, it's still a long, long way off being anything approaching good value. If you've got more money than tastebuds, or access to a healthy expense account, then dining somewhere with a menu of multi-thousand-pound vintage cognacs and a Beluga caviar for £500 a pop may hold some attraction. For the rest of us though, my advice is to spend your monthly salary elsewhere.


The Lanesborough
Hyde Park Corner
London, SW1X 7TA


Rating:         13/20

Breakdown:    5/10 food
                     3/5 service
                     5/5 ambience


Follow @chrispople on Twitter
Blog: Cheese and Biscuits


Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1 – 5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6 – 9 get a DVD, 10 – 11 if you must, 12 – 13 if you’re passing, 14 – 15 worth a trip, 16 –17 very good, 17 – 18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: We get carried away.

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12 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Mark GarnerAugust 2nd 2011.

Fcuk me Chris, can we get our money back???

Harry The FishAugust 2nd 2011.

This Chris Pope bloke is good, but not good at using paragraphs

Chris PopleAugust 4th 2011.

This Harry the Fish bloke is good, but not good at spelling surnames.

CarmeloAugust 7th 2011.

Amazing thAt you compare apsleys to bocca di lupo.... A michelin star restaurant to a trattoria.
Also in 2008 you eat a orrible food for what I can see from the pictures and you give them 6 on 10 and this year you give 5 on ten for an amazing food... Always for what we can see from the pictures!!! Were is the pictures for the langoustine plate... Petit four and hot bread?? And how can you give 5 and you also don't try the dessert?

CarmeloAugust 7th 2011.

Last..... It's better that you concentrate on junk food .... Burger..... And not on fine dinig.... Sorry but this is the true.

Chris PopleAugust 8th 2011.

Carmelo: I guess English isn't your first language so will forgive you for not reading the review properly, but it wasn't amazing food. It was pretty bloody far from amazing, and that's why I gave it 5/10. You can fanny about all you like with multiple platings and fine china but if you overcook langoustines and serve a horrible bland "soup" that just tasted of blended peas, then you're going to get bad feedback.

I took pictures of all the courses but this isn't a blog so there aren't room for all of them. Happy to

And lastly, I like any restaurant where I feel I'm getting value for money, from a burger shack to the fanciest restaurants in town. Apsleys is all style (and price) and no substance. I'm sure you can find many examples of good fine dining restaurants in London from my blog, as you've clearly had to go back quite a way to find my first review of Apsleys...

Chris PopleAugust 8th 2011.

Something went wrong with the last message - meant to say 'happy to email you all the other pictures of the courses individually if you want'

Krista BookerAugust 12th 2011.

I'd like to reply to Carmelo.
I have enjoyed reading Chris's blog for a while now and what I like about it is he comments fairly whether it is a burger joint or fine dining (I also disagree that burgers are junk food!).
He is not swayed by pricing which is why he can compare Apsleys to Bocca di Lupo - and why not? They are both restaurants where we spend our money to eat food, whether this costs us £50 or £150.
Anyway, you surely must be thankful that Chris saves you from going to a restaurant that is 'orrible? I certainly trust this review and will stay away from Apsley - michelin star or not.

CarmeloAugust 14th 2011.

I just want to reply to all of you....

How is possible you give Apsleys and Alain Ducasse 5 out of ten!!!

A possible two Michelin stars restaurant and a divines tree Michelin stars that does quality and amazing food!!!

Better if you concentrate on street food!!!

Krista BookerAugust 14th 2011.

I believe Chris gave them 5/10 because they were rubbish on his visit. That is what 5/10 usually means!

Just because they have Michelin stars does not automatically mean they will be 10/10 on every visit - as many food blogs prove and thanks to them for bringing this misconception to light.

I think you are just trying to provoke an argument and perpetuating this would be pointless.

Chris PopleAugust 15th 2011.

Carmelo: Yes, Ducasse is also a hugely overpriced, pretentious rip-off joint. Thanks for pointing that out. Both places seem to survive purely from shallow Michelin-chasers who think just because they're paying a lot of money, it must be good. People like you in fact.

NoexpertblogAugust 30th 2011.

We posted a negative post of this too, and got the same sort of reaction from "defenders" of Apsleys, I only published a few as they just got progressively ruder.

If you are interested its at http://noexpert.co.uk/?p=14049

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