London’s Most Understated Fine Dining Experience
London has, in the past decade, seen a dining resurgence. A plethora of daring chefs and restauranteurs look to challenge the long-held belief that British food plays second fiddle the neighboring French cuisine. A country that has been known for its pub grub, has now seen an influx of culinary talent that has flocked to the capital to make their mark on what has now become a ruthlessly competitive hospitality landscape.
In the sea of ostentatiously audacious chefs and eccentrically raucous restaurants sits Alyn Williams at The Westbury. Chef Alyn Williams is the contently understated personality, sitting slightly to the side in this, at times frenetic and convoluted London dining scene. Previously working alongside Marcus Wareing and Gordon Ramsay, and with posts at Les Alouettes and Le Champignon Sauvage, the London born chef seems anything but preciously high strung, despite the both domestic and international acclaim his work has now received. Meeting him in his Mayfair restaurant, Williams is remarkably similar to his food: modest and humble in presentation and, at the end of the day, a wonderfully personable and down-to-earth. He has a genuine interest in his guests’ opinions of the food, and he exudes warmth, despite his illustrious career. His food, while technically impeccable and consumed with rich and complex flavors, comes across as accessible, and Williams himself is the same. Watching this master chef speak to diners in his restaurant was rather identical to the way in which his food communicates on a plate: superior in its quality, yet unassuming and attainable, able to instantly form a relationship.
His restaurant could be called elevated European classics that have been crafted from the finest quality produce. But I’d describe the dining experience as a calmly refined conception of Williams’ seasonal discoveries. He prides himself on being able to source and use ingredients available that particular week, rather than the broader season. And most importantly, his menu celebrates these ingredients in a manner that allows them to truly sing.
Dazzling Orkney scallops, smooth and gentle, have an almost jelly-like texture, perfectly cooked with its sweetness gracefully paired with the pleasant tartness of apple. Topped with a delicately sweet apple foam, sprinkled with cucumber powder, the dish is an elegantly simple delivery of a myriad of weaving textures, all seamlessly uniting. A plate of roasted lobster and a lobster taco, with dirty guacamole and green gazpacho is clean and refined, and a prominently popular selection – possibly due to its appearance on Britain’s Masterchef. The English classic Herdwick lamb served with peas and mint is given the Williams treatment with a wonderfully rich and meaty bite from the chanterelles and the smooth creaminess of Jersey Royals potatoes.
Roasted monkfish served with fennel compote is a robust offering. The monkfish from Cornwall is satisfyingly spongey in its texture, with a salty bounce and sturdiness. Its mild, salty flavor is offset by the sweetness of a fennel compote and coconut shaving, with an alluring aftertaste.
However, it’s an item from Williams’ vegetarian tasting menu that legitimately encapsulates restaurant, but being totally honest with you, I wouldn’t typically order macaroni and cheese when dining at a Michelin-star restaurant. But, after Williams’ urging, it arrived at my table. And, it was without question, one of the most gratifyingly pleasurable dishes I’ve tasted in London, and undoubtedly, unparalleled to any other version I’ve had. Cooked in tomato water and topped with truffle, it is, quite simply, a dish that will leave you feeling nothing but content. The sweet tomato undertones blend with the thick and buttery burrata, carrying across every bite of the faultlessly cooked pasta. It’s a remarkably simple but captivating dish, and one that I would urge any diner, even the most dedicated carnivores, to experience.
While chefs and restauranteurs often clamber for the attention of exhibitionistic influencers, Williams seems content doing his own thing. His meticulously sourced produce is cooked to perfection – and there’s a respect for the ingredients used. His thoughtful and refined composition of durable flavors is subtle in its lingering impact. The overall bite is mesmerizingly powerful in a completely collected and poised manner, without any aggression, and there’s a sincere affection in all his servings.
Alyn Williams at The Westbury is one of London’s quiet achievers and is a restaurant for those seeking a meal of the highest quality without self-indulgent excess. The food is placed first, if not second to the guest, in an impeccable dining experience that is flawlessly executed. This is a restaurant of indisputable value and a culinary destination that will justifiably continue to gain popularity. And, if you're lucky, you'll get to chat with the chef himself.