Restaurant review: Kaspar’s at The Savoy, London

Jonathan R Jones

Jonathan R Jones is a freelance writer on art, interiors and lifestyle based in London and Berkshire. As well as covering food and travel for VADA, he writes for publications including Art Review, Modern Painters and Sculpture Magazine and is Contributing Editor at COVER Magazine. Find him blogging at jonathanrjones.wordpress.com.

Kaspar’s, the seafood restaurant at London’s famous Savoy Hotel has a brand new menu “not bound by the seasons but inspired by them”. Provenance and relationships with suppliers are at the heart of the menu. It’s still heavy on the fish but there’s plenty to please carnivores too; the (only slightly pretentiously worded) menu also offers food “raised in the fields” and “foraged from the earth”. Vada writer Jonathan R Jones checked it out for readers one Monday night with his other half; unrelentingly selfless, right?

Food and drink

Pre-starter but post-cocktail, we shared a smoked and cured fish taster plate from the cold seafood counter. Have you tried sablefish? Its meaty, moist texture was a revelation. Loch Duart salmon was melt-in-the-mouth but the smoked mackerel was a bit of a let down (sorry, Fraserburgh). The accompanying soda bread had the perfect ‘cakey’ texture. Kaspar’s has a tendency to over-deliver on flavours; fish this good certainly didn’t need lemon wedges or horseradish sauce.

To start we opted for the Cornish Hen Crab and Native Lobster Bisque, and the Keltic Scallops. The presentation of the bisque was pure drama (the bisque itself is poured at your table over the lobster flesh). It was rich and creamy with the subtle warmth of Espelette pepper and a surprising zing of coriander which added a welcome freshness. As you would expect at The Savoy, the scallops came perfectly cooked. Alas the Yorkshire Rhubarb was pretty but a fusion too far – too sour and crunchy to successfully complement the scallops – but the miniature black pudding balls, carrot puree and sorrel garnish made up for it.

We plumped (a carefully chosen verb) for surf and turf for our mains. The Isle of Harris Lobster was a dream. Easy serving here (no fiddly utensils required) and the Lemon Hollandaise was a triumph. Accompanying Duck Fat and Rosemary Chips were to die for (or at least risk cardio-vascular complications) although the Wye Valley Asparagus (towards the end of the season when we visited) was a disappointment, arriving in a cheesy puddle of sauce. The steak (we opted for the Irish Black Angus Fillet, cooked rare) came ‘de-macho-ed’ with a microgreen and floral garnish. Cooking on the restaurant’s famous Lava Grill had imbued it with a flavourful crust. No sauce required, but the padron peppers were a witty finishing touch.

There was more drama in the dessert department. We couldn’t resist the ‘Paris-London’; a celebration of French patisserie in the English capital concocted from choux, praline and chocolate mousseline. The waiter dramatically dribbled hot chocolate sauce over a lengthy log of salty-nutty-crumbly-crunchy goodness. This one won’t disappoint the size queens. It really is a mouthful!

To drink, go for wines by the glass (from a reasonable-ish £10.50 to an eye-watering £79 per glass). The house Sauvignon Blanc was easy-drinking and the ‘Little Beauty’ Pinot Noir is a good red. From the cocktail list the Bombay-Sapphire-based “Keep Walking” comes recommended. And don’t miss the opportunity to try the famous (since updated) “Corpse Reviver”, the original ‘hair-of-the-dog’ first mentioned in Harry Craddock’s infamous Savoy Cocktail Book in 1930.

Look and vibe

The interior is perhaps best described as ‘Art Deco theatrical’. It’s very much in keeping with the history of the hotel, which was originally built by impresario Richard D’Oyly Carte with profits from his Gilbert and Sullivan operas. The new Kaspar’s is like a 1930’s jewellery box and sparkles with reflective surfaces; from the chequer-board marble floors to the silver leaf ceiling, via Murano glass columns and pendant light fittings. The tables by the window are less bling but command a view of the Thames (the restaurant used to go by the name of “The River Restaurant”).

Price

This is a decadent dining experience so expect to blow the budget. Dinner for two based on a cocktail each, three courses and wines by the glass could easily come in at around £150 per person. However, there is more modest fare available for a pre- or post-theatre bite, including main courses around the £35 to £40 mark.

The bottom line

Step back to the 1930s inside a London icon and party like Gatsby; sup a Corpse Reviver and dine on all the ocean and land has to offer.

Kaspar’s at The Savoy, Strand, London WC2R 0EU, 020 7420 2111, www.kaspars.co.uk / www.fairmont.com/savoy-london/dining/kaspars

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