Every weekend I have this grand plan for all these things I’m going to do. The restaurants I want to pre-book and if it’s sunny, the roof terraces I must take my friends too. None of this really actually happens. Instead I end up changing my restaurant booking because I’m not quite happy with the choice I made and decide that the roof terrace cocktails are far too expensive. The other weekend I got on Twitter, desperate for a recommendation and by just a stroke of luck,The Strand Dining Rooms replied to say they’d just opened that day into soft launch. I couldn’t resist heading down.
After a visit to the opera at the ENO to see a version of Bizet’s, The Pearl Fishers (which I wasn’t blown away with) we made that short stroll down to The Strand Dining Rooms, which literally sits just off Trafalgar Square and next to Charing Cross Station. It’s been revamped immaculately. The room was been designed by none other than, Russell Sage. If you’ve got the cash to splash, Russell is the go-to designer for new restaurants opening in grand spaces. Polished dark wood, huge grand chandeliers – it’s gorgeous. Cocktails were suitably glamorous and just as gorgeous.
The restaurant, launched by Mark Harris is essentially a brasserie, in both its casualness, its food and accessible prices for all. A very summer starter of beautifully cooked Cornish mackerel and a tomato salsa was exactly the sort of dish pre-theatre goers, and myself would want to eat. Its fresh, zesty, well executed and very accessible a £8.50. Its not going to change your life, or even be unlike something you’ve eaten before. But this honest cooking will leave you very satisfied.
A simple clean looking plate with a brawn terrine, pigs head croquette and piccalilli was dangerously addictive. The pigs head croquet was excellent, full flavoured and very well seasoned. While terrine was a little on the intense side with an incredibly meaty flavour which could perhaps put some people off. The texture, its dense pressing and again seasoning couldn’t be faulted. Piccalilli was fantastic. It was sweet, sour, very tart and went beautifully with that delicious croquette.
I suspect this to be one of their signature dishes, as the menu reads ‘The Strand Seafood Crumble’. To look at this dish, I expected nothing more than a warming well-made fish pie. Instead I was faced with something much more exciting than that. It was in fact the best fish pie I’ve eaten. One mouthful and its rich, buttery, creaminess transcended me to another planet. Then in my classy and decadent manner I managed to lose half of it all over the fresh new leather booth we were sitting in – we’ll call it a christening. The crumble was of the dark breaded brown type and had just about every fish and shellfish underneath it. Juicy prawns, squid, mussels and chunks of fleshy white fish. This was one luxurious fish pie which I can’t wait to come back and try again.
The 8oz sirloin of Dedham Vale beef was served with jenga stacked chips, roasted cherry tomatoes and a light bearnaise sauce. It was a well cooked, solid dish that I’d happily order again. The steak is no Ginger Pig from Hawksmoor kind, but at these prices (£25) it was a lovely slab of meat. The chips were pretty good too. Bearnaise sauce on the other handed was a little weak for my taste and didn’t have enough tarragon or seasoning.
Blancmange with homemade doughnuts was for me, not at all exciting. Yet I couldn’t fault its execution. The doughnuts were good but really needed a deep jam filling, and I didn’t really get the combination between them and the blancmange. Looking at the menu desserts were actually not very exciting and I only chose this because it sounded like the most indulgent option. Perhaps this is where The Strand Dining Rooms let themselves down? I’ll leave that for you to decide.Apart from the less than satisfying dessert, The Strand Dining Rooms actually does exactly what it says on the tin (press release). In the Trafalgar Square area it’s surprising how many bad, fast food restaurants there are here without having to venture in to Covent Garden – and even then it can be a bit hit or miss. The restaurant is so huge that walk-ins will always be a possibility and for a pre/post theatre meal, a good catch up with friends or even a date with the love of your evening you just met on Tinder – it’s a great option. This no frills, honest cooking is a great new addition to the London dining scene and producing food like this on its first day – surely things can only get even better.