Having one of the finest locations in London is a pretty big feather to have in your cap when you’re a restaurant, after all it’s ridiculously exciting when you can boast you are literally opposite London’s Hyde Park on the famous Bayswater Road. The Island Grill has another pretty big feather to play too, it’s the main dining outlet within the Lancaster London, formerly the Royal Lancaster, one of the capital’s iconic clutch of famous hotels dating back to the sixties.
So, quite an illustrious past then.
As I walked up to the restaurant entrance, literally a couple of steps from Lancaster Gate tube, I have to admit I was intrigued; Island Grill, it conjured up all kinds of exotic images; palm trees, coral seas, soft white sand.
The reality was a lot less tropical and more New York grill.
“So, why Island then?” I asked, as we sat at our table.
“Because we’re on our own traffic island. It’s a famous landmark.”
Not quite what I was expecting, but it brought big smiles from the other waiters.
That said, another surprise awaited; the menu was less New York and more European. With intriguing starters like Celeriac Veloute with a savoury black truffle éclair (£4.95) or seared tuna salad with roasted cherry tomatoes, pickled onion rings and ginger, avocado and cirrus dressing (£7.50), to Calamari with Mango and pomegranate salad £(7.95) or Cannelloni with wild mushroom, salsify and ricotta filling, spinach and mushroom sauce (£6.95)
This was turning out to be a world tour!
In the end, we plumped for really tasty pan-fried scallops with curried carrot puree, courgettes, pickled radish and parsley oil (£8.95) and an unusual Island salad of purple sprouting broccoli, cauliflower, roasted red onions, bulgur wheat, peppers, courgettes, parsley and a poppy seed dressing (£5.95).
I also have to confess, I had a small cup of the Celeriac Veloute just to see if it tasted as good as it sounded.
And it did.
By now, I was warming to the task of surprise and enlightenment at every turn. The island grill was turning out to be a voyage of discovery with every dish, and so far all of it was excellent.
My partner’s main course of pan-fried sea bass fillet with homemade ricotta and spinach gnocchi, pesto butter, chicory, pine nuts and peas (£14.50) was a total triumph. And although I was tempted by a roast breast of Gressingham Duck with a dash of Cavolo Nero (£16.50), I ended up with something from the aforementioned grill.
It just seemed the right thing to do.
So an 8oz fillet steak with a green peppercorn sauce and garlic mash (£29.50) was ordered with a side of spinach(£3.50). The steak was melt in the mouth impressive as was the garlic mash.
My Island waiter, perhaps buoyed with confidence over the success of the starters and mains confidently suggested we try the Chocolate Trio for dessert; dark chocolate fondant, white chocolate and coffee foam and Valrhona chocolate sorbet (£5.50). In all fairness I would have, if it hadn’t had been for the Apple and Blackberry crumble (£5.50) which frankly outbids anything in my book.
Well It didn’t disappoint. A perfectly stewed and not too sweet Granny Smith and blackberry compote topped with a small sprinkling of crumble and some real English custard.
The Island Grill, despite the rather curious reason for its name, delivered some surprisingly good food, deserves its 2 AA rosettes and still flies the flag for an iconic London hotel.