Carole Hamilton enjoys some very British cooking at a very British hotel tucked away in a cul-de-sac in St James’s
First, a word about the name. It’s not, as you might imagine, because this restaurant has game on the menu, (although it does). It’s actually an homage to Nancy Wake, the resistance fighter who frequented the hotel’s American Bar during the Second World War and then made The Stafford her home until her death in 2011. After hearing more about Nancy’s awe-inspiring exploits from chef James Durrant, I’m sold.
James has been at the helm since The Game Bird opened earlier this year, and his passion for serving tasty, uncomplicated food is obvious. Having honed his craft with Gordon Ramsay and Jason Atherton, James’s menu is as British as the hotel that, until recently, was more famous for the American Bar – the less touristy version of its rival of the same name at The Savoy. But judging by our dinner, the restaurant should now be firmly on the culinary map as a destination in its own right.
The food & drink
Oyster-lovers will salivate over the British Isles Oyster Menu, including varieties from Jersey, Colchester, Dungarvan and Lindisfarne. The elegant seafood trolley, groaning with smoked salmon, trout and eel prepared at the table and served with pickles, horseradish crème fraîche and soda bread, is delightful.
James’s pies and stews, along with creamy mashed potatoes, cauliflower cheese, cabbage and spinach, are already becoming legendary with the smart – mainly male – clientele, although these are closely rivalled by The Game Bird roast pigeon and the melt-in-the-mouth chicken Kiev with truffle butter.
Hearty fare, yes, but all the dishes are created with a light(ish) touch, with enough modern twists and turns to please all kinds of appetites. It’s not all meat – the menu also features an excellent Dover sole and Cornish cod with Jersey Royals.
Puddings follow in the same comforting vein with a pear and blackberry trifle, a light-as-air Lyle’s Golden Syrup sponge, a tarte tatin, and a selection of fantastic British cheeses.
James Durrant has done an excellent job at recreating some old favourites as well as introducing modern crowd-pleasers. We think Nancy would have approved.
Make it happen
Price: The Market Menu is great value at £25 for 2 courses and £30 for 3 courses
Where: The Stafford London, 16-18 St James’s Place, London, SW1A 1NJ