Even the address of Flemings Hotel gives a clue to the style and quality of this boutique establishment: Half Moon Street, Mayfair. It’s one of the smartest areas in London, although the eponymous and long-gone pub had a considerable and iffy reputation. Mayfair takes its name from the popular annual gathering which, several hundred years ago, had moved its location from Haymarket. It was a livestock market, but the entertainment element of the fair grew and provided stalls for the ‘mirth and merriment’ of the general public. The fair was banned in 1708 due to the raucous and antisocial behaviour of its patrons. The calming measures evidently worked, as in 1763 James Boswell took rooms in Half Moon Street and wrote his celebrated diary but not in The Grill.
The 1852 London Post Office Directory documents Robert Fleming as running a lodging house at 10 Half Moon Street, and in 1855 Fleming is found running a ‘Private Hotel’ at 9 and 10 Half Moon Street. He was evidently a successful businessman and I don’t doubt that he would be proud to lend his name still to this gem of a hotel.
Mayfair is now considered to be the most polished and refined of locations. It has the open spaces of Green Park on its doorstep, shops selling the best of designer goods, as well as some of the finest restaurants the capital can offer; and there is Flemings, too.
This was my second visit to Flemings. I had previously had drinks and cupcakes in The Front Room. That is a truly striking space and ideal for cocktails and small gatherings but you’ll need to book. I was expecting good things from the restaurant and I wasn’t disappointed.
The Grill is down a wide staircase. It’s an intimate space with low ceilings, dark wood and rich colours. The table arrangement provides quiet nooks for couples and larger spaces for groups. It’s an obvious restaurant of choice for the hotel guests but it’s also frequented by those in the know. Flemings has convenient transport links, being just a couple of blocks from Green Park Underground station and it has a whole fleet of red buses at the end of the road, so it is, unsurprisingly, the haunt of discerning diners from across the West End. The restaurant continues the design ethos of the hotel in general: polished, comfortable, with individual and confident accents. Flemings is a hotel for those who appreciate the difference between chain hotels and bespoke elegance.
Head Chef Braden Charlesworth’s menu reflects modern European food. The Grill is more of a fine-dining restaurant than a stereotypical ‘grill’, which might conjure visions of slabs of meat and foil-wrapped spuds. Braden takes the ingredients ordinarily found in a Grill, elevates them and refines the traditional dish. He has a passion for freshness and sustainability and the proof of his commitment garnishes every plate.
Our introduction to the skill of the kitchen team at The Grill was the light and creamy Duck Liver Parfait with port sauce. A parfait is a pâté that’s made airy by passing through a sieve to make it silky smooth and delicate, and this one arrived in a small glass jar with the sauce as a ruby-red layer. Delicious served just with some toasted bread.
My starter was Grilled Cornish Mackerel with Heritage Beetroot and Horseradish. This is a much under-rated fish and for no other reason than that it’s common. If it was an exotic fish line-caught by reclusive monks in a salt-water lake in Mongolia it would be ten times the price and people would be raving about it. It’s a flavourful fish and versatile. This dish offered the simply-cooked mackerel with horseradish as a foil to the natural oils of the fish.
My guest was taken by a slightly more eclectic menu item: Grilled squid, Iberico chorizo, corn, lime and coriander. This is a popular combination of surf and turf but it’s done well here. Squid in curls with a light char and seasoned with the paprika-infused sausage was a colourful tapestry and tasted as good as it looked. Nothing over-fiddled but there was still the element of cheffy flair. A signature dish if ever there was one, and I would be suggesting that Braden expands this into a main course.
After two piscatorial starters we were bound to explore some carnivorous mains. My companion, a lady with impeccable culinary credentials, opted for the Grilled Bavette with Mustard and Tarragon Butter and Hand-cut Chips. Bavette is becoming a familiar dish on menus here but it’s better known as a bistrot favourite in La Belle France. It’s a more economic cut of beef from the skirt or flank. It’s prized for its robust flavour, but it needs to be fried or grilled to rare or just beyond to avoid the texture of shoe leather. My guest proclaimed herself well satisfied with her meal and remarked that it was perhaps the best example of this meat that she had ever tasted.
I was intrigued by Belly and Cheek of Gloucester Old Spot Pork. “Once you try Gloucestershire Old Spot pork, you’ll turn your back on the tasteless, dried up, intensively-reared pork forever,” quoth Derek Cooper on the BBC Radio 4 Food Programme. It’s perhaps the Rolls Royce of our British porcine heritage and recognised for having distinct culinary advantages. It’s called ‘Old’ Spot because the pig had been known for as long as anyone could remember. The first pedigree records of these pigs date to 1885. The biggest single factor in the increasing popularity of the breed has been the renewed appreciation of the eating qualities. The difference can be attributed to the fat: modern pigs have hardly any of this as backfat or as marbling within the meat. These historic pigs have a distinct layer, as well as marbling, which means that when the meat is cooking it is being basted in its own fat, rendering the pork moist and full of flavour.
The portion of belly was melting, with a tender rind. Some crackling was added for stage dressing and crunch, along with the cheek that was well-seasoned and moreish. The cuts don’t have attractive names – hard to make ‘cheek’ and ‘belly’ poetic – but they are tasty with comforting texture. It’s old-fashioned cooking and memorable. A must-try at Flemings Grill.
Blood Orange Jelly with Crème Fraiche Ice Cream sounded light and refreshing after the richness of pork. This had vibrant flavour and presented the very essence of orange, more than one would find in the fresh fruit. Chef Braden Charlesworth has transformed a nursery staple into a sophisticated adult treat, and it’s fruit after all, so no guilt here.
Flemings ticks all the boxes for me. The location, staff, chef, ambiance make this one of my Top Ten destinations for entertaining in the whole of London. That’s a fine recommendation in a city that has so many outstanding restaurants and hotels.
Breakfast: 7am – 10.30am Monday to Saturday
Sunday breakfast: 8am – 11am
Lunch: 12pm – 2pm Monday to Friday (closed for lunch Saturday & Sunday)
Dinner: 5.30pm – 10pm daily
Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7499 0000
Flemings Hotel and Apartments
7-12 Half Moon Street, Mayfair
London W1J 7BH
Phone: 020 7499 2964
Visit Flemings here
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018