Phil Howard's The Square

Last night, I had the pleasure of dining at The Square in Mayfair. One of the downsides of going out for a meal as a family is that the one time we are usually all free is a Saturday night, and booking a table for seven on a Saturday night tends to require quite a lot of forward planning. On the upside, that has given me two and half months to come up with a witty title for this blog, taking the phrase ‘a square meal’ as my starting point. Unfortunately, it’s two and a half months later and I still haven’t come up with anything better, and it wasn’t really very good to begin with.

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I won’t go through course by course, this is not meant to be an analysis, and I would hesitate to even use the word review. It should be considered simply an opinionated look back at an excellent meal.  So, to start, for the purposes of completeness, the full menu we had was:

White, Brown and Walnut and Raisin Bread

 

Amuse Bouches of Fois Gras Cone with Almonds, Gougeres and Squid Ink Cracker with Taramasalata

 

Chargrilled English Asapargus with Goat’s Curd, Hazlenut and Aged Balsamic

 

Salad of Warm Roast Salmon with English Aspargus, Crayfish, Jersey Royals, Sea Vegetables and Herbs

 

Saute of Scottish Langoustine Tails with Parmesan Gnocchi and an Emulsion of Potato and Truffle

 

Roast Fois Gras with a Tarte Fine of Caramelised Endive and Burnt Orange Puree

 

Roast Fillet of Turbot with a Fricassee of Mussels, Cepes, Parmesan Gnochetti, Broad Beans and Nettles

 

Loin of New Season’s lamb with Pea Puree, Spring Carrots and Broad Beans

 

Tasting of Windrush Valley

 

Brillat-Savarin Cheesecake with Red Currant Glaze and Sheep’s Yoghurt Ice Cream

 

Dark Chocolate Souffle with Walnut Ice Cream, Cookies and Cream

 

Assorted Petits Fours

I am always aware when writing about a meal like this, that it’s easier to nitpick at elements that weren’t as good as other bits rather than talking about the excellent bits. So to be clear, the meal was exceptional, however, my general feeling was that the first half of the menu was superior to the second half. We’re talking minor degrees here though. The highlight course had to be the langoustine tails which was quite simply a magnificent dish, perfectly balanced and packed with incredible flavour. Similarly, the roast fois gras was a pleasure to eat.bread-01

I could go on, but a list of adjectives would be fairly superfluous. So on a more general note, one thing that was always evident was the quality of the individual ingredients of the dishes. For example, although the various accompaniments to the langoustine tails were delicious, with the quality of the langoustine, any accompaniment is only going to play a supporting role. But to be clear, I mean this in the most positive sense. What the Square did magnificently was let the ingredient take centre stage and speak for itself. A chargrilled piece of asparagus doesn’t need to be messed around with too much and there was a measure of perfectly executed simplicity running throughout the menu.

Saute of Scottish Langoustine Tails with Parmesan Gnocchi and an Emulsion of Potato and Truffle

Unfortunately, there was a downside to the meal, which was the petits fours. This was a real shame, as everything up till then had been pretty consistently excellent. The petits fours however, all seven of us found decidedly forgettable (thus the reason I haven’t typed them up individually), and also actually rather unpleasant, the only exception being the chocolate truffles. Only one small issue out of a whole meal, but nevertheless, it was a shame that it ended on that note.

Roast fois gras, caramelised endive and burnt orange puree

There being seven of us, all unashamedly loud, ‘atmosphere’ is never really an issue in restaurants, as we tend to create our own ‘ecosystem’. That being said, the general atmosphere at the restaurant was excellent. Despite being quite an open space, the place was bustling for the entire evening, never getting too loud and certainly never approaching uncomfortably quiet. The service too was excellent, with the waiting staff always on hand but not overbearing as can often be the case. That being said, I have never seen so many people dive to offer assistance as when Callum managed to pour a glass of sherry over himself. The sommelier too deserves special mention, having given excellent advice and recommendations.

So what can I really say in summary? Petits fours aside, the Square is an exceptional restaurant that I would have absolutely no hesitation going back to, and ranks up there with the very best meals I have had the pleasure of eating out.

Coming soon, a look at photography in restaurants, although it could be delayed if I sleep on it and write something slightly less damning. But where would the fun in that be.