The Wellington Club -Restaurant Review
by Nick Harman - Friday November 15, 2019 10:11 am
91 Jermyn Street, St James's, London SW1Y 6JB thewellington.club
Nick goes clubbing, takes a message from art and hoovers up some very fine food
We’re all going to die.
I don’t bring you this cheery thought in order to depress you, as if the imminent arrival of Christmas wasn’t depressing enough, but because the first thing you see after descending into The Wellington Club, is Damien Hirst’s ‘Disco Skull’ hovering over the bar.
It is what’s called a ‘memento mori’, a reminder of mortality. Putting skulls into paintings was very popular back in the day and Hirst has updated the concept for today’s sinners.
And The Wellington Club has seen its share of sinners since being founded in 1832.
Not this actual location so much, the club only moved here in 2019 but over the years some very naughty people have had a drink in The Wellington. Probably even more than in The Winchester - a little joke there for the older readers.
Like any good club it doesn’t advertise its presence; ring the bell on the shiny anonymous street door and you’re buzzed into a lobby and guided down to the basement club.
Also, around are five private rooms and a cigar room, too.The restaurant, which is open to non-members, is filled with hand-painted and original graffiti by Damien Hirst.
There are also some neon works by Chris Bracey, it all lends a kind of edgy, but not sleazy, air to the place.
It seems a bit saucy and dangerous, but in a posh way. Like those Chelsea blokes aged forty plus who wear very pointy shoes and dye their hair ‘Death In Venice’ black.
The restaurant has only been running a few months and is headed up by Brett Duarte, former executive chef of Gaucho. Group, who has come up with a happily short menu but with plenty of options to meet most needs.
We made short work of some fine cocktails sitting under Damien’s head, then plonked ourselves on comfy chairs at the table.
First up are pan-fried scallops with sweetcorn puree, dried ham and shallot juice. I don’t have them, but I try a bite.
Scallops are bang on point; lightly fried, caramelised and sweet. The ham and the small pieces of charred sweetcorn lend a subtle smokiness, while a couple of nasturtium leaves are pleasantly peppery.
It’s a clever riff on a standard scallop starter and properly Instagram presented, as all dishes have to be these days, although the club lighting is not best for photos.
I’m trying to eat less meat, even when dining out, but in any case, I would have still gone for the chargrilled cauliflower, black quinoa, sultanas and confit tomatoes.
I like quinoa and I like cauliflower.I wouldn’t say the cauliflower looks chargrilled; not many burny bits, but it’s cooked al dente and the contrast in textures with that and the nutty quinoa that sparkles on the tongue is perfect.
There’s fine acidity in the quinoa dressing, which helps the tomatoes sing.
Lots of flavours and textures going on in fact, and I happily picked up every last grain, only just refraining from getting the tweezers out of my Swiss Army Knife to finish the job.
Staff are friendly, treating us if we were members employing a balance of formality and informality that succeeds in making us feel welcome and well-known, if not actual celebs.
My main is pan-fried halibut, cucumber, baby fennel, watercress emulsion and oyster leaf. It’s exceptionally good, the fish cooked just the way I personally like it, which is extra firm.
Each ‘meaty’ forkful is assisted down by the slippery emulsion with its pleasing slight astringency plus a hint of aniseed from the fennel, always a good foil for fish.
I do like the ‘oyster’ leaf too, Mertensia maritima as we Latin scholars say. It’s a remarkable plant that really does taste of oyster and so partners up with the fish well.
P fancies a bit more vegetarian food and has the acorn squash ravioli, sage, parmesan, patty pan, hazelnuts and black truffle.
Add in the umami of parmesan, the aroma of sage, the texture of hazelnuts and the decadence of truffle and you have a real Autumn winner dinner.
Oh, and we eat triple cooked chips. Massive things, gloriously crunchy outside and fluffy inside. These, I imagine, would go extra well with the steaks on the menu. You can’t have a classic London club without steaks.
I guess you call dessert ‘pud’ in a club? Well these are not clubby, schoolboy things by any means. Tiramisu choux, espresso truffle and mascarpone cremeux is superb even for a non-dessert eater like me. Decadent? ‘It is positively Roman, my dear!
P, being a bit more health conscious, hits the Greek yogurt sorbet with textures of raspberries. Crisp and refreshing, part of her 5 a day and low enough in calories for a supermodel to wolf down.
I could stay on for the dancing, to see the beautiful people roll up, have some more of those cocktails, but Disco Skull has a message.
‘You’re getting old, go home before you start throwing 70s shapes on the dance floor and being embarrassing,’
So I did, well happy with The Wellington.