The small nondescript black door squeezed between two tailor shops in Jermyn Street was hardly the introduction I was expecting to the legendary Wellington Club, a membership institution since 1832.
This is a club with quite the storied past. Formerly in Knightsbridge, its membership list read like a celebrity who’s who and was famously where Lord Lucan had a final tipple before vanishing.
This new Wellie promises more of the same edgy personalities; “charmingly insane and insanely charming” as they put it. But the new incarnation promises much more than a spectacular membership list. It now has an outstanding restaurant with former Gaucho executive chef Brett Duarte at the helm. And it’s also open to non-members, so there’s every reason to indulge in an evening of unadulterated people-watching while at the same time I’m happy to report, enjoying some really excellent food.
The bijou street portal led us down to a basement transformed into what I would describe as discreet nightclub chic; the restaurant on one level and the club one floor lower. The dark walls proudly displayed works by Damien Hirst. His spray-painted shark and a rare large-scale print of Disco Skull and The Hours held hands with hand-painted original Hirst graffiti. Mood music was permeating the room, a tantalising glimpse perhaps of what lay below once the DJs got going.
The restaurant was already busy doing good business, and our table for two was discreetly adjacent to a large party getting ready to celebrate a birthday dinner. However, I was much more interested in the menu which had covertly materialized in front of me courtesy of our amiable waiter.
There were a number of suitors for our starters; Pan-fried scallops, sweetcorn purée, dried ham and shallot (£16) or perhaps crispy ox cheeks with jalapeño mayonnaise (£12). In the end, we decided on a torched and cured mackerel with citrus fruits and avocado (£12) for my wife and the chargrilled cauliflower, black quinoa, sultanas, confit tomatoes (£10) for me. The mackerel was quite the showstopper, beautifully cooked and the perfect starter size. My cauliflower sitting on a bed of quinoa and sultanas reminded me of just how versatile cauliflower can be. Delicious starters.
By now, the birthday party dinner was in full swing and the kitchen heroically managing to keep pace with deliveries without compromising other diners’ service.
The Wellington has a separate menu for steaks which Duarte clearly sees as something of a signature offering. Scotch Black Angus fillet, rib-eye, sirloin, rump and picaña all available in 200g or 300g cuts. Then, sharing cuts; 650g Ribeye on the bone (£50) 1kg Porterhouse (£90) 600g Chateaubriand (£69) 500g and a T-bone (£54). And then a quartet of sauces at £2 each; peppercorn, blue cheese, chimichurri and bearnaise.
Faced with such a challenge it was only right and proper to go for a steak and I chose the 300g fillet (£39) with peppercorn sauce. It didn’t disappoint. An absolute belter of a steak cooked exactly as ordered – gently pink. The accompanying thrice-cooked chips (£5) were probably the finest I have ever tasted, sadly overshadowing the equally succulent buttered spinach (£5).
This was a stunningly satisfying main course for me.
Mrs M’s choice was another winner; pan-fried halibut, cucumber, baby fennel, watercress emulsion and oyster leaf (£32). The skin crispy with the white flesh underneath fluffy and soft. The combination of flavours from the cucumber, watercress and fennel were a triumph.
The party was matching us for courses as I spied a waiter walk past triumphantly holding aloft a plate of salt marsh lamb cutlets, English asparagus, pickled heritage carrots and lamb jus (£28) and another of poached and grilled chicken, peas, carrots, grelot onions and chicken jus (£26). Both looking equally impressive.
By now this feast was taking its toll so we elected to share a dessert. For us, it was a straight choice between tiramisu choux, espresso truffle and mascarpone cremeux (£8) or the chocolate ganache, peanut butter mousse and honeycomb (£8). The chocolate won and came as a riot of purple and black courtesy of a welcome addition of blackberries.
This was a very impressive dinner that offers excellent value. It seems value for money is high on the priority list considering there was also a menu du jour on offer at just £29 for three courses including a glass of prosecco which by anyone’s standards is great value for St. James’s.
Perhaps if Lord Lucan had tried this menu he might have stayed around a lot longer.
Tell me more about the Wellington Restaurant
The Wellington Club, 91 Jermyn Street, London SW1Y 6JB
T: 020 3601 0063 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org