A German bloke goes into an English hotel and starts cooking amazing Italian food. No joke.
Aha! It’s not all baked beans and beer, I sigh as the perfectly presented halibut is gently placed in front of me and my guests. The website said Apsleys was a Heinz and Becks restaurant or something like that. Clearly, Heinz and Becks is neither a catering industry cross promotion nor a sign that a certain English footballer has ditched his skeletal wife in favour of a strapping young German boy. It’s the same man, German chef Heinz Beck, the multi-Michelin-starred chef at Romes acclaimed La Pergola restaurant.
Now, finding the perfect private dining room has long been a pursuit of mine. For me, it’s about balance. Not too private, otherwise I might as well just be at home. Not too public, because the public aren’t as important as my friends and I. Nor, it must be said, are they as attractive to look at. Then there’s the food, service and the room itself which must be, respectively, excellent, excellent and, indeed, excellent.
The Lanesborough Hotel is where you’ll find Beck’s London operation. A capacious and grand room, exquisitely furnished and wonderfully decorated. The room is romantically lit by huge chandeliers, and off to the side lies the private dining room. From the twelve-seat table you are afforded the all-important view of the restaurant beneath you. It’s quiet, private, but you don’t feel alone or enclosed, people can glance in and catch a glimpse of you having more fun (and looking more attractive) than them. It seems the least we can do, frankly.
As you’d expect in a London restaurant with a German head chef, the food is of course Italian. Sorry, did we miss a memo? Has there been another invasion? However, don’t question the logic (or otherwise). In much the same way that Theo Randall has taken the same cuisine and made it his own, Beck has arguably pushed the envelope the ravioli, perhaps? even further.
The tasting menu is spectacular, almost prole-baiting good value, without any compromise on the quality of the cooking. For a more Italian influence (albeit with the occasional flourish of caviar), a steady trawl through the antipasti, primi and secondi is recommended. The experience is enhanced by quirky and clever amuse-bouche; frankly, anyone who can call something dust and make it still look and taste nice deserves kudos. The wine list too is spectacular, some 26 pages of elegant wines from all around the globe, not just the anticipated French and Italian bias, all made accessible by friendly and knowledgeable staff.
Where Italian food has too long been the subject of butchered cheap offerings in Soho dives, Becks gives it a flawless spin and, in the manner of Nico Ladenis, if you have to ask the prices, you can’t afford to eat here. Suffice to say, an a la carte meal for two will cost the same as a moderate weekend in Rome only with yes, I’m going to say it better food and yes, I’m going to say this, too less Vespa-riding handbag thieves.