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Food Hotel: The Landau at The Langham, London

Langham Hotel, Portland Place, London, W1B 1 JA
+44 (0) 20 79650165
Cuisine: European
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Andrew Turner, has made wandering up the forgotten end of Regent Street an essential part of any food lover’s foraging.
 
Tasting menus were invented for people like me; ditherers, procrastinators, Librans. The great undecided. Sometimes I get so excited by menus all I see are letters dancing before my eyes.
 
Truth is, I’ve never really left the candy store. The Landau at London’s Langham hotel is a well-stocked candy store, but fortunately its redoubtable chef, Andrew Turner, pre-empted my request for recommendations by suggesting I try his grazing menu. Turner, of course, invented the concept of ‘grazing’ after an apprenticeship that included standing at the shoulder of Albert Roux. When he branched out on his own, styling himself as the ‘Vanessa Mae of classical cuisine,’ awards followed; to his 1827 restaurant at Brown’s Hotel, to 1880 at the Bentley Kempinski and to Pennyhill Park in Surrey.
 
Now ensconced at the Landau he has made wandering up the forgotten end of Regents Street an essential part of any food lover’s foraging. Trouble was, I wasn’t that hungry. Not to worry, Andrew reassured; as long as you don’t overdose on bread rolls the miniature versions creamed from his a la carte are more than manageable. Okay, but my dining companion, Vicky, was a vegetarian. Not ‘was.’ She still is. She hasn’t let a slither of meat pass her lips in over a decade and wasn’t about to start now. We can do a vegetarian version, not a problem, said Andrew. It seemed that whatever I threw at him would be easily deflected, so I shut up, opted for the five course grazing (there are also six and seven course versions) and settled down to take in the surroundings.
 
The first thing I noticed was how busy it was for a Monday night. Enviable enough in the middle of a recession, but outside the weather made believe it was monsoon season. The sky was the colour of bruised plums. My fellow diners must have swum here. Opposite the BBC building on Portland Place looked war-like; stern and dignified. Inside, all was dignified, cheerful and refined. A multi-million pound refit by David Collins Studios has taken inspiration from the Orient; antique brass chandeliers, Chinese bells and silk Chinoiserie screens feature large . The pièce de résistance, however, is a glass-fronted wine corridor you walk past from lobby to dining room. Shaped like a lozenge, the Landau is designed to soothe. I half expected to hear piped-in dolphin music.
 
Instead I watched how accomplished the wait staff are. One was as gangly as a Daddy Long Legs, but managed to balance a full platter with grace; another delivered our first course – a sweet pea velouté – with a little flourish and a gentle explanation. Mine came with a hint of ham and a bacon-flavoured twig. It was a few spoonfuls of joy. A third waiter delivered the wine almost unnoticed. Each course on the grazing menu comes accompanied by a sommelier-selected wine pairing and you can elect to have two glasses of champagne and two of wine if you don’t want to go wine all the way. Perfect for procrastinators.
 
We took the wine route. And I expected Vicky to reach for the bottle when my second course turned out to be a Lego-sized brick of pressed foie gras served with a gorgeously sticky-sweet caramelised apple, but she was far too embroiled in her carpaccio of beetroot and goat’s cheese to notice my disgraceful behaviour.
 
We were as happy as lambs in the meadow, when course three took a tiny dive. My scallop with asparagus and sauce sétoise was as fine a dish as I’ve ever eaten, the scallop producing just the right amount of fork resistance, but Vicky declared her gnocchi romaine ‘a little bland,’ the tomatoes juicy enough and full of sun, but the gnocchi itself of indistinct texture. I stole a mouthful to double-check.
 
Happily course four brought things back on track as my cutlet of English lamb arrived cooked to pink perfection, surrounded by a tranche of wilted spinach and a Jackson Pollock-esque swirl of red pepper boulangère. Vicky’s mushroom risotto with confit peppers, meanwhile, proved so full of flavour I helped myself to a couple of forkfuls. She contented herself with a little more wine. And I worried she might have imbibed too much when the delicious dessert came.
 
Described on the menu as a Mango Egg and looking like a tiny fried breakfast, she wondered if it was indeed an actual egg. Biology never my strong point I pointed out that to the best of my knowledge this is still not the way mangoes reproduce, but I did have to concede that it came from the Salvador Dali school of cuisine.
 
Oddly artful flourishes aside, however, the Landau is bang on the money, especially if money is no object. At £57.50 without wine for the five course grazing (four glasses of wine are £39.00 extra) this is special occasion stuff. Once you’ve decided what constitutes a special occasion, however, the walk to the top end of Regents Street should be automatic.
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8 October 2009
By: Andrew Copestake
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