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Quaglino’s is a long-standing feature on St. James’s social scene which is famed for its nightlife among its more sedate neighbours. PAs, Quaglino’s is a great choice if you’re looking for an evening of entertainment as a backdrop to your dining experience.
Tiger rating: 3.5/5
Great for: Entertaining evening guests
A bit of background
Quaglino’s began life back in 1929 when Italian restaurateur Giovanni Quaglino first founded the venue, and throughout its colourful history it has regularly attracted a long list of royalty and A-lister guests.
Since then, it has undergone various makeovers and today, its décor harks back to a by-gone era of opulence, grandeur and affluence. It’s the perfect backdrop for evening of dining and entertainment, but lunch guests may feel like they’re at the dress rehearsal.
Our party arrived at Quaglino’s for a lunch meeting; upon arrival we were enthusiastically greeted by attentive hosts before being guided down a gold, red carpeted sweeping staircase into the opulent main dining room.
We ordered off the a la carte lunch menu, which has a succinct array of elaborate contemporary European dishes that cater for meat eaters, pescatarians and vegetarians alike, yet with no particular theme or apparent speciality.
When we booked our table, we were asked whether our party had any dietary requirements or special requests – one vegetarian and no truffle, we said – and our waiter astutely confirmed our requests while we browsed the menu.
But when we ordered the deliciously creamy cauliflower velouté to start, it arrived without the parmesan tuile and girolle mushrooms that were listed on the menu, which was a bizarre confusion with our dietary requests. A small apology followed with no offer to replace the dish or remove it from the bill.
Aside from this faux pas by the waiter, who was otherwise reliable, the several other dishes ordered were good; the rump of lamb was just the right amount of pink and was accompanied with a divine jus that was full of deep flavours, making this dish the highlight.
We were also impressed by the chicken terrine, which was rich, meaty and everything that a terrine should be; but again, the menu described a ‘pickled vegetable’ accompaniment that didn’t appear on the plate.
And then there was the pan-fried cod with mussels: although the fish was plump and beautifully cooked, it rested in an exceedingly salty mustard-coloured broth which felt unnecessary for the delicate fish flavour.
Perhaps we wouldn’t have noticed these slipups had we been distracted by an evening show, but for our afternoon lunch, they were too notable to ignore.
Nothing about Quaglino’s is understated; from its dramatic lighting, underground labyrinth of dining areas and Hollywood icons adorning the walls, to its huge central bar with oversized vases and gilded stage complete with velvet curtains – it is certainly out to impress.
And it is impressive – it’s hard to imagine what lies beneath its sober exterior – yet this extravagance creates a feeling of expectation which, without the buzz of the evening clientele beautifying the sumptuous bars, makes the atmosphere feel quite sedate.
It’s all so carefully choreographed: the décor, the waiters, the lights, the bar… It feels as it could easily be a film set. And on the day we dined, there were various photoshoots in private dining areas taking place, which only contributed to this.
So, in all, would we recommend Quaglino’s? Yes, certainly. It’s a beautiful venue which comes alive at night. But PAs, your principals might not be as impressed at lunchtime without the accompanying entertainment.