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Brian Turner Mayfair,  Grosvenor Square W1

Clifford Mould welcomes the revival of some great British traditions

Brian Turner MayfairBrian Turner is a bit of legend in the great British saga of the stoves. You name it - he's cooked there: from his local caff back in Yorkshire, to the Savoy Grill, Simpson's-in-the-Strand, Claridge's and the renowned Capital where he stayed for 15 years. He left to start his own eponymous restaurant, Turner's, from 1986 to 2001. He is probably best known to the general public for his regular appearances on the TV show Ready Steady Cook. Now he has opened his new Mayfair showcase restaurant, something he has wanted badly for quite a while. 

The restaurant is a collection of interlinked spaces separated by rather beautiful hand cast textured glass screens, and by small differences of floor height, which breaks the room up quite cleverly. Some of the pictures don't quite go, but I had the feeling that Brian is still trying out various ideas at this early stage. But where the menu is concerned, there's no messing around. It's a well considered list, with some British classics based on very carefully and knowledgeably sourced ingredients. There are some modern twists too, and the contemporary presentations are mainly centred around individually crafted items, like the perfect circle of treacle pudding rather than the working man's wedge cut from a family sized pudding he would have had as a boy back in Morley.

I and a gourmet friend dropped in for lunch after a morning tasting of some 50 excellent wines at Majestic Wines. You may be wondering whether we might have been a little over refreshed by lunchtime. The answer is a definite no! - that's why we wine buffs spit it all out so assiduously! It was therefore very pleasant to sit down to peruse the menu with a glass of very nice Viognier from Sommelier Edward Hutchings' excellent list. 

At lunch there is a three course menu available for £21.50, and from this we chose both the smoked haddock rillette with tomato and red onion oil which was neatly done with a great smoky flavour and nice texture, and also the cream of split pea soup. I remember when soup was pretty well de rigueur in most hotel dining rooms - now it's a bit of a treat, and this one was no exception. It came, rather elaborately - but hell, why not have some fun? - in a copper pan, to be poured into a wide brimmed bowl in which there was already some green veg which turned out to be leeks. It was very good indeed, and full marks for serving it on a really hot soup plate. From the main a la carte menu I had to have the smoked eel fillet with warm crushed new potatoes and crispy bacon. Some people are put off by the idea of eel - but it's so moist and delicious, it's one of our great British delicacies. The starter choice had been agonizing - I'm still dying to try the black pudding spring rolls with chilli plum sauce - now that's fusion for you! 

The main dishes are listed in two sections - Main Dishes and Grills and Roasts. There are classics like Dover Sole with lemon Hollandaise and Rib of Aberdeen Angus beef with seasoned Pudding (pudding? Yorkshire pud yer daft brush). I tortured myself with visions of the steak and kidney plate pie, or the slow-roasted fillet of Gloucester Old Spot - a rare breed of olde Englishe piggie. In the end I went for the  grilled veal chop and chipolatas (but not from the grills and roasts section). I hope that a subtle culinary distinction had not passed me by - but the chop was generous and tender. All the trimmings were in proper order and a side dish of pease pudding showed off another incarnation of the humble but versatile split pea. My friend had the Barnsley chop, which is a double lamb chop cut right across the saddle. It was thick and pink and served with Reform sauce, which soon disappeared. I meant to ask him to check if it was all present and correct. Reform sauce should sport a short julienne of cooked salted ox tongue, gherkin, hard boiled white of egg, mushrooms and truffle - phew! He very generously gave me a cut of lamb to try and it was really succulent. I don't remember the waiter asking him how he wanted it done - in general the service was eager but lacking the in-depth skill that such a dining room requires. But as I have said, it's early days, and Brian has a good team who could easily overcome a few teething problems if they have a mind to. 

It's always afterwards when looking back over the menu that one notices what one missed. How or why did I not have the Knickerbocker Glory? I ache with the Betjemen-esque  memory of those tall glasses, those absurdly long spoons, the excitement of the layers of flavour, the final luxury of the strawberry coulis at the bottom. Only we didn't call it that then, and it was probably strawberry jam. Instead I had the steamed treacle pudding which was light of texture and came with proper custard. My friend's apple and pineapple crumble was much enjoyed. Altogether a great celebration of English food at its best - we can be proud of our Mr Turner.

Brian Turner Mayfair is at the Millenium Hotel Mayfair, Grosvenor Square W1K 2HP 
(entrance in Adam's Row, or through the hotel)
Reservations: 020 7596 3444 Lunch: Monday to Friday and Sunday; Dinner: Monday - Saturday

Read Brian Turner's May 2003 Menu

Clifford Mould May 2003

UK Restaurant Reviews – The Best Of The Dine Online Restaurant Reviews 2001 - 2010

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