Andy Mossack dines at The Footman, a recently refurbished gastropub that’s been a watering hole in Mayfair for over 250 years.
London’s Mayfair is glamourous any time of the day but come nightfall it takes on another lustre. Expensive cars line the streets paying no heed to parking restrictions, and the pavements are awash with fashionistas and expensive cologne.
Just past Novikov, along from the Palm Beach Casino and left at Berkley Square, you’ll find The Footman at the top of Charles Street. A perch it’s enjoyed since 1742 when it was called The Running Horse and footmen in service to Mayfair households used it as their local.
The old girl has had a recent six-figure makeover and is looking remarkably perky for a lady of a certain age. Thankfully she hasn’t gone all hipster on us, more a homage to her origins with exposed brickwork, plenty of timber and brass and smart parquet flooring.
I must admit my heart sank a little when I arrived to find the ground floor heaving inside and out. Mercifully, up a narrow set of stairs, the bijou restaurant on the first floor was a haven of peace and tranquillity, that showroom smell of new fittings a reminder of the recent refit.
Along the main wall, a row of smart horseshoe leather banquets guarded the large tables while modest four-seater tables embraced with red leather chairs filled the rest of the space. It was all very charming and compact as you would expect from an 18th-century building, the serving hatch of a dumbwaiter a clue to the basement kitchen far below.
So, no surprise then, the lack of space mitigated the need for anything but a compact, yet entertaining menu curated by head chef Stuart which promised plenty of flavoursome creations.
We kicked off with a sure-fire crowd-pleaser. A deliciously warm home-baked white and roasted onion bloomer with black garlic butter (£5) and a bowl full of giant green olives (£5). I mean, seriously, who can possibly resist onion and garlic, they are a dream combo.
For our starters, Mrs. M went straight for the Scottish scallops with fennel kimchi, sweet potato, and avocado with a coriander puree (£14). “They had me at sweet potato and avocado” she murmured. I, on the other hand, was terribly torn between burrata with balsamic leeks and truffle honey (£12) or the courgette flower tempura with feta, and broad bean hummus. (£12). The courgette won out through my passion for beans in all its forms.
But I wasn’t disappointed. The tempura was crispy and dry, and the hummus, ringed by lavender oil, delightful, particularly as I still had some onion bread left to dip into it. The scallop dish entertainingly colourful with crunchy fennel kimchi and a delicious spicy late kick.
By now, our bijou space was warming up with a few bodies from the post-work crowd, clearly intent on putting the dumb waiter through its paces.
The mains were another compact set of well-crafted dishes across all forms. From honey-glazed gammon, duck egg, confit potatoes and pineapple relish (£17) to roasted halibut fillet with a green and olive and herb crust (£24). However, Mrs M zoned into the mini boat of new season lamb shepherd’s pie with crispy lamb belly, duck fat carrots and mint sauce (£18) after the recommendation from our very able hostess. A lady who managed to seemingly managed to clear our table, pour us water, acknowledge another table and let the kitchen know we were ready for our mains without missing a beat. Remarkable.
I changed tack completely and chose a very comforting tomato gnocchi, with creamed spinach, black garlic aioli and roasted pine nuts (£17).
The boat of shepherd’s pie was crusty on top and meltingly soft underneath as it should be, with the two different coloured carrots atop the crispy lamb belly which had similarities to a breakfast hash brown but tasted entirely delightful.
This dinner was a total triumph for me. It was an invitingly relaxed room, small enough to make you feel almost at home, and the food felt freshly cooked and piping hot. And the best part? This was Mayfair eating without the Mayfair price tag. I suspect there’s not many options like this in this neighbourhood.
The old girl did us proud, and so did the dumb waiter by the way, which went through its paces without a hitch.
Tell me more about The Footman Gastropub in Mayfair
The Footman, 5 Charles St, London W1J 5DF
T: 020 7499 2988 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Reservations are recommended.