Alyn Williams at the Westbury: Bespoke dining with daring
Mayfair, as one of London’s most affluent areas, has plenty to offer: it’s a prime shopping destination for fashionistas seeking the latest trends in upscale designer boutiques, it’s located just moments from bustling Oxford Street, and it has a handful of lush garden squares to provide a brief escape from the rush of the city. For many, however, its most compelling attraction is the myriad eating establishments in which to while away a few hours. The Westbury is just one of these places; standing elegantly behind Regent Street, the five-star hotel offers luxury and comfort, as well as a gastronomic journey for those in search of the finer things. The latter comes in the form of Alyn Williams at the Westbury, a one-Michelin-star restaurant utilising the best French cooking techniques to create thoughtful, delicate and playful British dishes.
Aimed predominantly at lovers of fine dining and those with some cash to splash in the evenings, the restaurant seeks a broader audience at lunchtime, with tasting menus that cater to both carnivores and vegetarians. The rare decision to dedicate a menu entirely to vegetables was a natural progression for Williams’ culinary journey, not least because his father was an avid gardener with two allotments of his own, where he grew all manner of vegetables.
It was during these years, where mealtimes were full of freshly picked vegetables, that Williams developed a thorough appreciation and respect for utilising only ingredients that are in their seasonal prime. Further fuelled by the lack of vegetarian options in most restaurants (including those that consider themselves to represent fine dining) that has left his vegetarian wife with little to choose from, Williams set out to create a menu that could stand proudly as a legitimate competitor to the more classic, meat-focused, options.
This is a challenge Williams has embraced and overcome with ease. His determination to utilise only the freshest seasonal ingredients is evident in every element of the tasting menu. From the opening dish of Broad Bean Hummus, Crudités, Green Gazpacho, Multigrain Crispbread, which celebrates the freshness and delicateness of baby vegetables, right through to the Celeriac “Risotto”, Hazelnuts, Golden Raisins, Sauternes, Summer Truffle, which offers sweetness from the raisins, crunch from celeriac batons and light and unobtrusive hints of earthiness from shaved summer truffle, vegetables are the hero.
The Homemade Feta, Apple, Sorrel, Kohlrabi is a further highlight of the afternoon service, with a refreshing change from the common barrel-aged feta, which is often over-salted and denser in texture. Prepared almost daily, the feta produced at the Westbury is made using much less brine than is often required, heating yoghurt and goat’s milk at a lower temperature than is common, which results in a beautifully light and creamy cheese.
Williams achieves an equally high standard with the sweeter courses, more specifically the Passion Fruit and Alfonso Mango “Solero”, which sings with exotic and tangy flavours of passion fruit and compressed mango squares, with puffed rice adding texture and bite as well as a lovely contrast between the sharp mango exterior and rich filling.
Adding to the enjoyment at the Westbury is the option for diners to pair each course with a beer or a wine, described at every stage by the knowledgeable sommelier. These pairings match beautifully, complementing the menu with just the right amount of sweet, citrus and leathery notes to bring out the best flavours on the plate at each moment. The dessert matching was a particular favourite, with Kriek Boon Cherry Lambic beer from Belgium offering a deep and rich cherry flavour that was just the right amount of sour.
Alyn Williams at the Westbury has very eloquently displayed the ability for vegetables to be as exciting and interesting as meat and fish, offering diners from both camps the opportunity to enjoy a bright, thoughtful and, for some, more daring meal out. The frequent menu changes and the diversity this brings from season to season should give those in Mayfair, and beyond, a valid excuse to frequent the area.
To book a table at Alyn Williams at the Westbury, 37 Conduit Street London W1S 2YF, call 0207 183 6426 or visit here.