Over the course of its nearly 140 year history, the edifice now containing Kerridge’s Bar and Grill has hosted everything from Jazz Age Cabarets to a stint as the Ministry of Defence’s home away from home. Since 2011 it has been the 5-star Corinthia Hotel and after we stumbled in on a particularly wet and miserable October afternoon, the grand environs and soaring ceilings felt as far away from Embankment as the star Betelgeuse.
Kerridge’s Bar and Grill is the first London restaurant of Michelin Starred chef Tom Kerridge, and as the initial outpost of his culinary empire, it certainly looks impressive. The restaurant occupies a huge circular room, complete with the de rigeur enormous windows framed by eight Doric columns, discreetly hulking over thediners like professional bodyguards. The vastness of the space allows for a nicely spaced out layout for the tables, enough for a pleasant hum of conversation rather than a roar. The constellations of tables revolve around an unusual star: a silvery life sized sculpture of a man’s suit, which holds chilly court at the centre of the wheel. A little investigation revealed that it was sculpted by Frau Kerridge, but a little bit of spousal nepotism isn’t necessarily a bad thing, particularly in a space this expansive. Indeed I was rather taken by it, the size and looming emptiness puts one in mind of a suit of armour designed by Franz Kafka and often I found my gaze unconsciously magnetised towards it (which to be fair is a pretty unique way for a restaurant to discourage people watching).
Neatly ensconced by the reassuringly extensive wine collection that takes up most of a wall, we got stuck into food. Kerridge’s is resolutely British in its menu, offering a selection of familiar dishes which aim for perfection rather than radical reinvention. This can be a dangerous game as without a unique buzz generating concept it’s easy for a restaurant to get lost in the endless noise of London’s culinary scene. Thankfully the flip side to this is that if a chef is able to deliver on the quality, the familiarity of the dishes can result in something of a tour de force and happily that is very much the case at Kerridge’s. This goes double for the wine, the extremely personable sommelier (far too frequently an oxymoron at high end restaurants) Yvan’s skill at wine pairing was almost unnerving, to the point where the courses were unimaginable without his contribution.
After some disarmingly moreish sourdough appetizers I launched into the Duck Leg, Black Pudding and Pistachio Terrine, Truffle Mayonnaise and Homemade Pickles (£16.50) which looked as if it had been chiselled from living marble. Whilst it felt obscurely barbaric to despoil such an artfully presented meal with knife and fork, the wonderfully rich taste quickly put paid to any lingering aesthetic regrets. As delightful as the starter was it was a distant second place compared to my main course of Treacle Roasted Fillet of Beef, Celeriac and Horseradish Purée, Onion Jam, Fried Pickle, Chips and Gherkin Ketchup (£42.50). I’ve never quite been convinced of treacle roasted meat, but the sweetness was expertly matched with the horseradish purée, a fusion which practically had my eyes rolling backwards in a genuflection to Kerridge’s particular genius.
Whilst at this point critical mass was fast approaching I wasn’t going to miss out on dessert and at the not so-subtle prompting of my waitress I elected to cap the meal off with the Blackberry Soufflé with Baked Cheesecake Ice Cream and Lemon Thyme Custard (£13.50). A tower of silkily yielding cake, it was heavy without being too filling as a capstone. Whilst the food delivered in spades, there’s no way around the fact that this is an expensive joint, the mains alone probably average out at about £30 which might cause some second thoughts, but if you’re happy to give your credit card a work out, a good time is absolutely guaranteed.