I was then thrilled to find it was a Wheeler's of St James, having happy memories of my parents taking me to the original of this restaurant, which was established in 1856.
The Friday before the May Bank Holiday meant the restaurant was very quiet and my guest & I were offered a large table for four, which we were grateful for.
There was an Express Lunch option or a large à la carte menu. We studied these while admiring the tall Victorian chandeliered room with ornate ceiling and red leather chairs, that was formerly Bond's restaurant and before that the London City and Midland Bank.
We both ordered the same dishes from the appealing Express Lunch menu and then got cocktails.
A perfect very dry Grey Goose martini for me and a strawberry daiquiri for my friend, despite hail outside and the fact she was off to Edinburgh for the weekend, where there was snow on the ground.
Jo Flanigan, Manager of the Restaurant
Jo, the Manager of the restaurant, came to chat with us. She explained that this Wheeler's of St James (which opened in March 2015) was now the only one. A very good friend of mine's bad experience in another Wheeler's of St James was when there was a chain, with a bad reputation, before MPW became involved.
We then talked about MPW's plans for Ludlow, his obsession with Gloucester Old Spot pigs and the trick to making perfect crackling. Jo is clearly a huge fan of MPW, sensible and very fun to chat with.
Jo raised her eyebrows when our chargrilled chorizo starters arrived, which made us think we have been given larger than usual positions.
The smoked paprika salty flavour of the chorizo worked perfectly with the light crispy seaweed and the silky texture of buttery celeriac purée. We both adored this moreish dish but it was too much food for my female friend.
Next it was the braised short rib of beef on truffled pommes purée with fried mushrooms & wilted greens.
The beef melted in your mouth and it was a heady combination of deep flavours with the truffles & fried mushrooms and smooth creamy potato. We both had to keep taking 'breathers' from all the rich food.
I had ordered some glasses of Taittinger champagne for us and its crisp citrusy taste was a perfect counterbalance to all this luxurious heavy food.
We ended the meal sharing some cheesecake. It was the sort of dense baked cheesecake I adore and the lightly poached pears, and raspberry coulis, made for a pleasantly refreshing end to an excellent meal.
Service during the meal was friendly, cheerful & attentive and we were told at the end that I was not being charged for the champagne.
🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻 (6 out of 5 ‘teddies’) - poor reviews of Marco Pierre White Wheeler's of St James Oyster Bar & Grill Room, shortly after it opened, had made me apprehensive about this lunch but these worries were completely unfounded. Jo, all her first class staff, the exceptional food and the free champagne got this restaurant the extra 'teddy'. My tip:- do not pick two heavy courses.