There comes a time when a chef wants to leave a well established kitchen and place his own plaque on the door featuring his very own name. This is the case for Alyn Williams after spells of cooking in some top named restaurants including the defunct Michelin starred Les Allouettes with his great mentor Michel Perraud, The Greenhouse, Zeferano, Chez Bruce, Pétrus under Marcus Wareing and back to Restaurant Gordon Ramsey during 2001 under Head Chef Mark Sergeant the same place where he had his very first work placement during his college days. After a subsequent stint at the Groucho Club he returned to work for Wareing in his acclaimed Michelin star Berkeley Hotel establishment which gained it’s second star in 2007 with Alyn as the Head Chef. He settled for 5 years before moving on and placing his own plaque down at the Westbury Hotel armed with (I can only imagine) the discipline, craft, precision, respect and high standards gained over the years in the aforementioned restaurants. Alyn’s technique is classic French, which has evolved over the years from his travels overseas and it’s really good cooking, a Michelin star within a year of opening and winning National Chef of the year is testimony to that.
Just a random collection of plates the art of setting a table they call it and yes you guessed it – the setting is formal.
The menu is a la carte only at £65 per head for 3 courses.
First up on the amuse bouche we have smoked salmon with crème fraîche served on piece of bark and encased in a super crispy pastry cylinder. Subtle and brilliant and makes the taste buds want for more. Mission accomplished.
Choux pastry with blue cheese and parmesan was next up for the amuse bouche’s and they are very light and crisp with a delicate cheese flavour. Not as interesting as the salmon but tasty nonetheless.
The Maître D brought a little copper pan to showcase their alba truffles and to of course let those truffle heads know that they will rain truffle for you if you dip your hands into your wallet. I couldn’t resist a feel and a sniff, it would have been rude not to and the unshaved one gave the strongest perfume as the Maître D quire rightly pointed out.
For those who have read my other postings on here would have gathered that first impressions count – usually in bread form and the baked goods here are excellent. The staple sour dough which had a lovely flavour and the Provençal fougasse bread which was light and bouncy. The crust was also crisp and sweet. The beurre noisottte totally outshines the butter though, it was so good that another 2 servings were ordered. Spreading it on the bread made it decadent and sweet – sweet from the molasses and nutty from the beurre noisette.
Our sommelier had skills – not only did he help us choose and excellent Bosquets Gigondas but he managed to place the wine foil back onto the bottle seamlessly. The wine was unctuous and had a fresh juiciness too.
Foie gras duds/Medjool date/yogurt/chestnuts/orange. Worthers Originals like in hue, butter smooth and creamy too. Naughty and very nice.
Marinated quail/red cabbage/violet mustard/confit yolk/baked potato. The quail cooked to a perfect pink with a nice caramelisation, almost livery in texture but in a good way and then the layer of spices wrap around your tongue. Apparent, but not over-powering. Our Maître D informs us that star anise, fennel and coriander seeds are in the marinade. The emulsion is so full of flavour too, creamy yet light and perfectly seasoned.
Onto the mains now: Devon ruby beef/oyster/confit potato/tartare/sherry vinegar. I can see where the beef gets the name from – just look at the deep ruby red hue, so tender you don’t need a knife to cut into it. The meat was sweet and the entire dish was just balanced with all the technique and flavours.
50 day aged pork/Roscoff onion/sage/cider/Cumberland gravy. Sticky-rich, intensely rich pork all balanced out with the sweet apple balls and juicy radishes. A very skillful and brilliant dish.
A pre-desert-desert of blackberry jelly, vanilla panna cotta and lemon chello sorbet. I’ve never had sorbet with panna cotta before, it was interesting and I’m on the fence a little. The crispy buttery biscuits were on point though.
Liquorice ice cream; my fellow diner insisted on trying some of this as he opted for the warm Manjari chocolate & praline fondant, passion fruit and banana sorbet. (Manjari is chocolate producer located in the small town of Tain L’Hermitage not to far from Lyon). It was every bit as excellent as it looked, bitter sweet ooze from that chocolate shell. The tang from the sorbet gave it that extra edge.
Autumn berry pavlova/liquorice ice cream. Crunchy meringue with a compote of hidden berries inside, the flavour balance was the perfect amount of tart and sweet. The liquorice in the ice cream was a mere whisper.
Petit fours – salted caramel chocolate. Mouth waveringly good, simply stunning, we were even given a little gift box to take home with us.
Here’s the man himself, masterful and a nice bloke indeed!
When did I go? Mid Dec 2015
The damage: Expect to pay £130-£150 per head with drinks/wine.
The good: From beginning to end, from amuse bouche to petit fours, every dish was outstanding. The plates of food were well constructed, giving balance throughout and our front of house were very knowledgeable. The pork had huge concentrations of flavour and the beef was as sweet as they come. Alyn also greeted us at the end of our experience and he is a thoroughly nice chap and really down to earth. When I asked him about which restaurants he enjoyed he responded with “I don’t usually have time to eat out but when I do I like Goodmans and Polpo”. Not bad choices at all but if I was as skilful as Alyn in the kitchen I wouldn’t be eating out much either!
The bad: Not a lot to grumble about although one of the waiters – I believe his name was ‘Alessandro’ was quite robotic and could have done with a bit of brightening up!
Alyn Williams at the Westbury
TEL : 0207 183 6426
37 Conduit Street