The AvenuePosted: January 25, 2010
Walking into the newly refurbished Avenue should really make me feel pretty sick.
This is predominantly because it’s plastered in photos of royal guards. Not royal guards doing what they’re paid to do, i.e.standing around all day doing nothing, mind you. Oh no. Its bearskin sporting royal guards engaged in all manner of hilarious and “wacky” activities like keeping fit down the gym or playing in steel pan bands, as if they’re actual real people or something. This is something I’d generally balk at, but as Tristan Welch (Launceston Place) explains, it’s a nod and a wink to the local area, we are after in the heartland of Piccadilly. I let it go, perhaps because the rest of the place is so well designed. The bar is pretty glamorous; in a clean and understated way and the floor to ceiling window lends a nice airy feel.
The menu is full of equally chilled but witty “mix and match” treats. Dishes like clam chowder, burgers and mushrooms on toast lounge comfortably alongside poached lobster, rib of beef and haunch of venison; each with the option of having a sharing sized or individual portion at half the price.
My Angus burger with Lincolnshire poacher cheese was gorgeous to the power of max. Cushioned in a seeded bun from the Hummingbird bakery, the charred smoky crust framed an almost foie like interior. Having tried the legendary Hawksmoor cheeseburger the day before, I found this to be ever so slightly more delicious. My only gripe was the home made gherkins which could have done with a tad more vinegar. A Caesar salad with home cured sardines was inspired with bites of toasted hazelnut and well seasoned leaves. The wild mushrooms on toast were another highlight, buttery sourdough piled with a medley of wild fungi and crowned with the oozing sunset of a slow cooked yolk. Poached brill with leeks and nutmeg was well executed, if slightly dull. The cheese fondue was the real champion. What’s not to covet about a caquelon brimming with a molten orgy of Coolea, Lincolnshire poacher cheddar and Danegeld…? Needless to say, there was much fondue fork jousting and a bit of a Vienetta style stand off over the burnished layer of la religieuse at the base.
Ice cream came in a cornet, and had the texture of a poshed up Mister Whippy, dripping glossily with prune and Armagnac syrup and harbouring a plummy surprise at the base of the cone.
Mikko Katja from Launceston Place is at the helm here and this really comes across in the very confident and sometimes stunningly good cooking. The staff were also knowledgeable, friendly and personable, something that seems be overlooked or dismissed far too often. Having front of house with character and warmth is an essential component and for me is often the difference between a good and a great dining experience. The Avenue has this in spades, and next time I’m uptown and in need of a proper burger or a five pound cocktail (for a limited period only) I know where I’ll be heading.
7-9 St James’s Street
London SW1A 1EE
Tel: 0207 321 2111
Fax: 0207 321 2500