We’d just spent the last 5 minutes slagging off the scallops when the waitress came over to clear the starters. “How was everything?” she asked with mild concern, a phrase that when fed into Giles Coren’s ultra-cynical restaurant-speak decoding device drops out the other end as: ‘like I give a f*ck’.

There was a hesitant pause. We weren’t happy but it’s a lot easier to say so when the aproned backs are turned and the dishes’ architects will remain oblivious in the basement kitchen below.

“Just ok”, said Chris in brutally honest fashion taking the table by surprise. But he was right. The relatively clean plates suggested otherwise but we’d been waiting one very long hour, neglected in plain sight, for under-caramelized scallops with spongy, tasteless dumplings and a decent mushroom veloute with smidgeons of uninspiring fungi and a soft poached egg. No fault could be found with the pork belly, it has to be said, but for just shy of £20 each we expected to be dazzled.

The waitress managed to dodge our flat response, leaving sharply as you would when an enthusiastic fundraiser bounds over on the high street. Muttering to the manager with the ever-so-slightest roll of the eyes, we figured that perhaps her question was rhetorical or that Wild Honey is the sort of place where things don’t go wrong or if they do you just aren’t allowed to say so.

Could it have been that we were four under 25s, unjacketed yet smart and reeking of Zone 3? Was it because I’d only ordered the £50 bottle of Corbières? Or was it because we booked on Opentable whilst down the pub in Shepherd Market an hour previously that meant our opinion, although asked for, didn’t really matter? Possibly. What I can say with conviction is that Michelin service this was not.

We weren’t asking for much. Merely a level of hospitality to complement the marvellous dining room in which we found ourselves. Wild Honey is quite unlike Will Smith and Anthony Demetre’s first restaurant success: the brilliant Arbutus in Soho. They leave you in no doubt as to your whereabouts. In stark contrast to Arbutus’ plain austerity, here, red velvet drapes shroud the doorway, cushy banquettes line the dark oak panelling and an impressive collection of mirrors and modern art adorn its walls. It’s warmed with soft lighting and well placed lemon fabrics, forming the classic and sophisticated look demanded of a Mayfair hangout. It’s properly, luxuriously done so that it’s not just mustard corduroys, it’s the matching tie as well.

But our main courses had some work to do. The dishes weren’t explained, so taste and photographic memories rallied to suggest I’d ordered the turbot with a medley of cockles, curly kale and blood orange; the fruit offering a sharp zing of acidity that dominated but didn’t overpower a lovely piece of fish.

The meaty mains were astonishingly attractive, well-proportioned plates of food. A generous hunk of beef came with celeriac and pomme Anna, a shin of veal in a bronze pan ready to scoop onto the garnished plate; and a loin of venison with parsnips and a slick of chestnut puree was so good it had pickled cranberries carouselling around the plate in joy. These were big dishes made beautiful with consummate dexterity.

They didn’t ask whether we enjoyed our mains – funny that – plus I’d already asked for the bill. We had to be off and the long wait for our starter hadn’t left time for sweets. But for the record they were super. Not cheap at nearly £40 a plate but there was no denying their quality.

And like a child sticking its fingers in its ears Wild Honey’s staff brought the card machine willingly. There was no apology, no patter, just exchange of plastic (my God, Coren might be right). No lasting memory other than some pretty main courses eclipsed by a dodgy scallop. And, like that, we were out of there; quicker than you could say ‘fermented ramsom’.


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