Boisdale of Belgravia
Decked out with every Scottish cliché possible you’re bound to forget that you’re dining out in London – tartan fabrics, mounted animal heads and more blood-red than on the walls of the Norman Bates motel. Boisdale of Belgravia is something of a local institution for pearl-loving, pashmina-wearing Sloane Rangers, and its parody is entirely on purpose. Indeed, owner Ranald Macdonald has created something at 15 Eccleston Street that celebrates his greatest loves – Scottish food, jazz, whiskey and cigars – with its Scottishness knowingly over-the-top and unapologetic. It’s a heady combination that draws an older crowd of white-collared food- and music-lovers, as you’d expect, with its success enabling other outposts in Bishopsgate and Canary Wharf, and a separate pub-with-rooms in Wiltshire. The Belgravia branch is divided up into a number of separate areas; a restaurant, two bars, a number of private dining rooms and a cigar terrace (heated, of course, to protect precious Sloaney Ponies). The restaurant is its undisputed centrepiece, however, with a narrow dining area running alongside the the bar and crammed with claustrophobia-inducing tables; a raised platform, bordered with a mahogany balustrade, is used to showcase musical talent. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the menu is hearty, heavy and wholesome; starters include Aberdeenshire steak tartare and toast, roulade of wild rabbit and Hebridean crab, while mains are comprised of dishes such as shepherd’s pie, braised oxtail and roast chicken. The prices aren’t cheap, but you certainly get a lot of carnivorous bang for your buck here; ideally, servers – smiley, and sharply-dressed – would advise on what dishes should be accompanied by side orders, as the shepherd’s pie could have done with a little something extra. Desserts, meanwhile, are as decadent and as filling as everything else, but stand-outs include chocolate ganache torte and the selection of farmhouse cheeses. While we washed everything down with a light but flavoursome Sauvignon Blanc, we’d advise a dram of something stronger from the extensive whiskey list to really get the best out of Boisdale. Some have suggested that this Belgravia stalwart is on something of an ego trip, but if it is then it’s certainly one that gets away with it through good food, bums on every seat and a repertoire of jazz that would please even a Ronnie Scott’s regular. The only thing we weren’t sure about was the loud bagpipe-playing halfway through each course, making it near-impossible to hold a conversation.