The Wolsley – Restaurant Review

The WolesleyI’ve got a confession to make. I’ve eaten in The Wolseley half a dozen times and I really don’t know whether I like it or not. Sometimes I love it; sometimes I just can’t wait to get the hell out of the place. Described by one reviewer as akin to dining in an eastern European train station, it’s a noisy, busy place, professionally run by Jeremy King and Chris Corbin (late of The Ivy and numerous other London watering holes) with excellent staff and food that’s best described as mostly reliable rather than outstanding.

But here’s the rub – who you are with, what mood you’re in and what time of the day you wish to eat, will almost certainly determine whether you like The Wolseley or leave you thinking it’s simply an overrated brasserie and wondering what all the fuss is about. Because in this restaurant timing seems to be everything, leading you to believe that maybe Basil Fawlty has devised a bizarre set of rules to put off potential customers. Turn up at 2.00pm on a weekday for lunch and you’ll be told you must choose from the all-day menu as the lunchtime menu has finished. Now the menus (and there seem to be loads of them) are pretty extensive, although why you can order (the excellent) chopped liver at five to two but not five past two is beyond me and frankly somewhat irritating. If nothing else you’re left with the feeling that whole enterprise is little more than a food factory run solely for the benefit of the management.

So putting that irritation aside what we have is a noisy, rather elegant (and a tad decadent) large room serving an eclectic number of dishes to an eager crowd of celebs, wanabee celebs and the rest of us, all jumbled up together – although it’s a fair bet that the celebs are able to get a table at anytime on the closely guarded VIP telephone number.

Potted shrimps, chicken soup and eggs benedict all make first-class starters if you fancy a change from the usual list of uninspiring starters on offer in many central London restaurants – plain and simple they may be but here they are really well prepared.

The steaks are superb as is the Wiener Schnitzel and the duck, but the fish dishes don’t seem to work as well (guests of mine have ordered different fish dishes on three separate occasions and all have been disappointed). Salads are first-rate, (particularly the Caesar salad) but the ‘daily special’ I ordered recently – caparchio of beef – was sample-size and a bit disappointing. Which is rather odd because the steak tartar that I persuaded the Nordic one to try after months of fruitless endeavor – “come on, remember what Oscar Wilde said about trying everything in life at least once” (except Morris dancing and incest) is absolutely fabulous and probably the best this side of Paris.

No review of The Wolseley could be complete without mention of the fabulous Viennese pastries – not for the calories conscious for sure but unmissable as a pudding or if you want to drop in for tea.

Open from early morning for breakfast until late at night, The Wolseley offers something for everyone – but it’s not to everyone’s taste. As I said; sometimes I like it, sometimes I don’t.

Richard Tobias

The Wolseley
160 Piccadilly
London W1J 9EB
Tel: 020 7499 6996