The Square. It is, a bit.
You know that there is something wrong with your life when you can’t get excited about going to a restaurant with 2 Michelin stars. Or at least there is something wrong with my life. But you know that by now.
And the truth is that every time I decide to go to The Square, I keep thinking that this will be the time when I get it, this will be the time when it speaks to me and this will with the time when I understand why people get so excited about it.
You can’t really find out much about The Square on their website. A few pictures and a plug for Philip Howard’s new book. One to add to the mountain.
So we go with the £90 menu. Not that there’s a choice. Actually, there is a choice. You can spend more than that by going for one of the options with a supplement. I hate that.
So we start with the usual Michelin trimmings and very good they are too. The amuse – a delicate cornet filled with whipped foie gras. Lovely. Gougères with cheese – possibly gruyere – light and delicate. Dark rye crackers with blobs of something a little forgettable. Great bread. I limited myself to the one roll. It was hard. I’m cutting down, before I morph into Hattie Jacques. I like the humour, but the figure? Not so much.
Then a little glass of gazpacho with avocado cream. Intense flavour and delicious, with a jelly at the base.
Shoot me, but I did have foie gras, served with a tarte fine of caramelised endive and glazed fig with chopped pistachios on the top. It was an excellent dish and with a good balance of flavour, sweet and savoury, a rich and satisfying starter.
Because I knew the fatty liver was going to be rather rich, I chose fish as a main course. Roast John Dory, with caramelised onions, lyonnaise potato and roasting juices. I believe that it had fish eggs in the juices and there was an onion purée rather than actual caramelised onions and this and was a balanced and delicious dish. The fish itself perfectly cooked and the crispy skin added to the flavour. It was a meaty fish dish, rich and intense.
But do you know, I’ve had dishes like this in many restaurants and whilst it was beautifully executed and delicious, it wasn’t exciting or memorable and you know, I really hope for something memorable in a restaurant with two Michelin stars and for 90 smackers.
There was a pre-dessert, the only detail of which I remember was the thin shortbread biscuit, balanced on the top. Not memorable, then.
And to follow, cheese. I told the lovely waitress what I didn’t want (blue cheese, the abomination otherwise known as smoked cheese) and left it to her. It was a good selection. Served with a sharp preserve and some grapes, it was a generous portion. I had to pay an excess for it, from the already not cheap full menu price. Is that really necessary? Do they really need that £10 supplement? Really?
C decided to go for it with a soufflé. A soufflé for God’s sake. I didn’t even try any, but it looked good.
And whilst I loved the chocolate truffles, I thought the jellies were a bit strange and they could probably stop that now. They look dramatic but I noticed that quite a lot of the tables around us seemed to have left theirs. Obviously I had to try them so you don’t have to do. And you don’t.
You can very easily get a table here. I used to find that strange, given the reputation and popularity of this restaurant but really, I have managed to get a table at short notice on many occasions. Top table is my friend, I expect it’s yours as well. It’s not quite the same with other restaurants of the same calibre – I really wish I could get a table at the sister restaurant, the Ledbury with such ease.
I want to love it. I’ve tried to love it, I really have, but the truth is I don’t. And it isn’t about the food I don’t think because the food is extremely competent and consistent and the service is faultless.
I think perhaps that the food is not exciting – beautifully executed but safe. And maybe that’s to cater to its somewhat unadventurous clientele. Call me prejudiced but it’s always full of tourists and groups of businessmen. This visit I even had to stare at Gregg Wallace. I can’t blame them for that but God that’s a big ask. And it’s quite masculine in feel, quite clinical. A bit soulless, even. It’s perfect for a formal business lunch or dinner and maybe that’s it. In my own time I want somewhere more relaxed, more enthusiastic, more modern, perhaps. Dare I say it, perhaps a little more fun.