‘Peo­ple who run stately homes do not eat. They live on dust in­haled from rule­books’

The Guardian - Feast - - Grace Dent - Grace Dent

Food ○○

At­mos­phere ○○○○

Ser­vice ○

Bryn Williams at Som­er­set House South Wing, Som­er­set House, The Strand, Lon­don WC2. 020-7845 4646. Open MonSat 10am-4pm; 6pm-10pm; Sun 10am-4pm. About £45 a head, plus drinks and ser­vice As I left Bryn Williams at Som­er­set House, past the stiff-faced se­cu­rity man on re­cep­tion and over the de­serted court­yard, I de­cided: I am no longer eat­ing din­ner in wings of his­tor­i­cal build­ings. I’m through. And, yes, this might be the most princessy ut­ter­ance my lentil-lov­ing pay­mas­ters have ever pub­lished, but bear with me.

Years ago, dur­ing a heinous din­ner at The Keeper’s House in the Royal Academy (a Pey­ton restau­rant lodg­ing within a Pal­la­dian man­sion dat­ing from circa 1664), that I walked out of mid-en­tree, I be­gan hatch­ing a the­ory that old, pro­tected build­ings and pricey food should never meet. They are a clash of cul­tures. The hos­pi­tal­ity world is the refuge of noc­tur­nal, lamb-fat-stained crack­pots who want to “push en­velopes”, cater to the drunk un­til at least 11pm, and nur­ture at­mos­pheres of warmth and largesse. Mean­while, all mu­se­ums, stately homes and Na­tional Trust prop­er­ties are run by dusty com­mit­tees of ve­he­mently opin­ion­ated, sin­glein­ter­est pro­tec­tion­ists. Th­ese peo­ple do not eat. They live mainly on dust in­haled from vo­lu­mi­nous rule­books. Per­haps this is why there are no signs for Bryn Williams dur­ing the half-mile walk from The Strand to your din­ner ta­ble in the south wing. It’s a sim­i­lar set-up with Spring, Skye Gyn­gell’s place also at Som­er­set House, which again is very taste­fully done, but has the cheer of a nu­clear win­ter. Worst cul­prit of all, I’ll wa­ger, was 42 Raw in the Royal Academy (now closed), an ex­pen­sive, well­ness-fo­cused din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence in a room four times higher than it was wide and an am­bi­ence chill­ier than the £17 raw “Thai noo­dles” (mag­im­ixed car­rot tossed in sesame oil). You know what would have been bet­ter in all th­ese places? Some­where sell­ing fruit scones with a tiny ramekin of jam and the op­tion of buy­ing a nice com­mem­o­ra­tive post­card.

Nev­er­the­less, I booked to eat at Bryn Williams’ new place be­cause Odette’s in Prim­rose Hill, where he is chef pa­tron, has a strong rep­u­ta­tion, and also be­cause

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