Charlie’s in Mayfair: Adam Byatt ups his game at Brown’s Hotel
Brexit might have not happened just yet – with many of us hoping it never will – but things have already changed at Brown’s. British chef Adam Byatt has replaced German-Italian star Heinz Beck: the timing is a bit suspicious, after all this hotel is where Johnson was infamously celebrated for winning the Tory leadership contest, but we’ll leave the politics at the door.
When Byatt received a michelin star for Trinity, in 2016, it was about time. And now it seems like the chef has finally found the proper stage for his cuisine. Don’t get me wrong, Trinity is great, but he fills these bigger shoes as if they were tailor-made.
We sit at a table overlooking the elegant dining room of this Mayfair classic five-star establishment. Tonight’s clientele is not the most electrifying – mostly rich men over 50s with either little or grey hair – but the vibe is still alluring and a glass of champagne is the perfect way to begin dinner.
For someone who had just spent a week craving a grouse – with several failed attempts to find one – spotting it on the menu is already a pleasure. After devouring the bread (which you could smell from a distance) and butter, and a delicious portion of fried courgette flowers with truffle honey, we begin our meal with two starters that have more than one thing in common. Graciously plated in a pressed round shape, a beef tartare of Lake District provenance and a dressed Cornish crab salad build on three different layers and textures, both topped by an egg.
The grouse is a symphony to my palate, and a glass of pinot noir Fixin Crais de Chêne 2015 by René Bouvier – from the more noble side of the Côte d’Or – is the perfect companion. Hailing from Yorkshire, where the game season is in full swing, the bird blissfully meets the acidity of the blackberry, its juicy flesh carrying unique flavour.
The selection of meat dishes is broader than fish, but we try a wild turbot with palourde clams and it’s wonderful. Cooked on the bone, it achieves firm texture whilst remaining thoroughly moist.
A raspberry and pistachio tartlet seems taken straight from a patisserie. I wasn’t going to order it but the waiter’s satisfaction in describing it makes me change my mind quickly. And, oh boy, it is the right choice. The mille-feuille, with three layers of puff pastry and two of custard, does what you look for in this dessert, just don’t expect goose bumps.
Charlie’s is a serious deal. The front-of-house team is one of true professionals, especially the sommelier Angelo Lorea, who managed to understand my sometimes-too-difficult taste for wine. The service is smooth and efficient, with no significant wait between courses. With this food and settings, I think Adam Byatt may have just nailed it.
★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
Filippo L’Astorina, the Editor
Photos: Filippo L’Astorina
To book a table at Charlie’s, 30 Albemarle Street London W1S 4BP, call 020 7493 6020 or visit their website here.