This article was originally published here on The Sunday Times online, on 11/09/11
Where did you go?
Quaglino’s, 16 Bury Street, London SW1Y 6AJ; 020 7930 6767, quaglinos-restaurant.co.uk
Why? With the 1990s fashion revival in full swing, we wondered if famous flash bar Quags could also be set for a comeback. In its heyday, anyone who was anyone had a pilfered Q ashtray on their coffee table. We set off in our most deeply pocketed parkas to check on the status quo.
What was it like?
Meeting your boyfriend’s parents for the first time. Everybody was very friendly. Everything was clean and tidy. Everyone was trying too hard. The 1991 Terence Conran redesign has inevitably dated, and additional touches to modernise it result in a restaurant that seems styled to within an inch of its life. Staff patrolling the upper balcony did nothing to relax the atmosphere and rather led my partner and me to pretend we were in a Bond film.
“Look out,” I’d cry, as another manager slowly emerged from behind a pillar, looking as if he’d had a silenced automatic behind his back the whole time.
Flowers, tassels, video projections, a seafood display and both a trumpet and Enya playing at once — Quaglino’s has everything. Just a bit too much of everything.
What did you drink?
Good cocktails. An Extra Kettle with coriander, lemon grass, ginger, and apple schnapps was wonderfully fiery, while a Quaglino’s Special had a comfortingly generous amount of alcohol to help kick-start the evening. An excellent sommelier down in the restaurant confirmed what we’d suspected up at the bar — Quags is hot on drinks. A 2010 Gavi di Gavi was a delicate match for the exquisite beetroot and goat’s cheese salad, and a perfectly bloody rib-eye steak with a 2005 Chateau Haut Gros Caillou made us forget all about our minders above. As the bar filled up, Quaglino’s was looking more promising, but the food just doesn’t match the price. Some things were good, most just okay — nothing was “Oh, Baby.” We left satisfied and happy, sure to head back for an extra Extra Kettle, but definitely feeling the lack of zig-a-zigahhh.
Who goes there?
Awkward people. Couples on first dates. Work colleagues angling for a big, fat pay rise. If you’re bored, dine at Quaglino’s alone. The eavesdropping is probably the best in London.
How much did it cost?
Cocktails (except champagne cocktails) are all £9. Wine starts at £21.50 a bottle and main courses are £14.25-£32.50