Located on Trafalgar Square in the centre of London, The Strand Dining Rooms offer all-day dining in smart and inviting fashion. The dining rooms are open for breakfast, morning coffee, lunch, afternoon tea, pre-theatre dinner and dinner. They have a focus on British cuisine with a nod to Europe and even, periodically, the days of the Raj.
Trafalgar Square has long been a magnet for tourists from home and abroad. From the 14th to the late 17th century, much of the area was the courtyard of the Great Mews stabling, which served Whitehall Palace, but in the early 18th century the mews were demolished. In 1812 the architect John Nash designed an open square in the Kings Mews opposite Charing Cross. He wanted the square to be a cultural space, open to the public. In 1830 it was officially named Trafalgar Square after the victory of Lord Nelson in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
Work began on the National Gallery in 1832. A decade or so later Nelson’s Column, designed by William Railton, was erected. In 1845 the fountains were built, based on designs thought to be by Sir Charles Barry. They are the target for New Year revellers who, in the past, would take a midnight dip. The granite statue of Nelson was sculpted by E. H. Baily, and stands on a bronze platform made from old guns from the Woolwich Arsenal Foundry.
A time when the pace of life was slower
The Strand Dining Rooms are timeless and refined and present casual fine dining in a location that reeks of pomp and historic continuity. The décor takes its inspiration from the interior of a traditional Pullman train coach. It gleams with polished wood and architectural elements that waft one back a century or so, to a time when the pace of life was slower. This is, for me at least, a proper restaurant.
Wild mushrooms, and a generous portion of them, was my guest’s starter. It’s the season for them and they are a treat for those of us who like the delicate and savoury flavour. These were simply served on toast and needed no other garnish.
Cornish fish soup, toast and garlic mayo was my silky and luxurious start. There is something decadent about a good fish soup. This one was a melange of mild fish and shellfish and presented in the fashion of a French bouillabaisse with its accompaniments.
My companion took advantage of the game season and ordered partridge. He pronounced this to be flavourful and moist but not over-gamey. Partridges are little birds and so often cooked to a texture of leather. The Strand Dining Rooms showed respect and culinary skill.
More than the sum of the component parts
Although the core of the menu is British there is a distinct nod to mainland Europe. Pork schnitzel served with a fried egg, capers and anchovies was my main plate of the evening. This might sound, to the untutored, a right strange mixture but each element is there for a reason, the total being more than the sum of the component parts, so to speak. The slice of breaded meat was big enough to overhang the edge of the plate and there was lemon to squeeze over. The pork was topped with an egg with still-runny yolk which bathed the meat like a sauce. The capers gave a briny note but the anchovies added a rich saltiness which was a foil to the fried fare. This is a must-try at The Strand Dining Rooms.
Figs garnished with ice cream was my guest’s simple yet seasonal dessert. These are abundant at this time of year so take advantage of them and, as at The Strand Dining Rooms, use in a delicious dessert, or bake with prosciutto.
The Strand Dining Rooms is perfect in its noteworthy location. The food showcases some of the best British dishes in the capital. Trafalgar Square might be a Mecca for visitors but the menu here offers authentic British fare, and there is something for every taste. We once had a deservedly bad reputation for our cooking but those days have passed and The Strand Dining Rooms holds its head high amongst London restaurants of any ethnic hue.
Lunch and Dinner times:
Monday – Saturday 12 noon – 11pm
Sunday 12 noon – 4pm
The Strand Dining Rooms
Grand Buildings – Trafalgar Square
Booking enquiries: 020 7930 8855
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018