Two Characters in Search of Beef Wellington at London’s Holborn Dining Room
The Holborn Dining Room in the Rosewood Hotel is conviviality incarnate — a big, warm-lit brasserie designed by Martin Brudnizki. The room was an Edwardian banking hall, once the home of Pearl Assurance. With siren-red banquettes, polished wood, and gleaming marble columns, it’s full of chatter and a Manhattan-esque liveliness that’s a surprise to find in boring-old Holborn.
Another lovely surprise is (what may be) London’s finest gin and tonic. The Chase Pink Grapefruit is gently tart, flavourful, chilled, and refreshing with bittersweet gin set off by the bitter-dry grapefruit. The glass is as big as my head, full of clinking ice. There’s a whole Mother’s Ruin menu of similarly fantastic-sounding gin drinks — with bases such as Pink Pepper Gin and Plymouth Sloe Gin — tantalising enough to make you go completely off the rails.
The restaurant’s Welly Wednesdays feature Beef Wellington created by chef Calum Franklin. Having honed his craft at Chapter One and The Ivy and Roast, Franklin embraces traditional methods that play particularly well in this warm embrace of a setting. The Welly Wednesday special — the ultimate winter comfort food — takes an epic three days to prepare.
Courtesy of Rosewood Hotel
But — disaster! We spend so long dithering over the menu that by the time we come to order, the famous dish has sold out. Disconsolate as a consequence of this serious First-World problem, we console ourselves with oysters, six on a bed of ice, slithers of decadence with a classic sharp-and-tangy mignonette sauce. Our other (fantastic) starter involves big fat scallops with artichoke and black truffle. These help numb the pain… somewhat.
It was hard to choose what to order as a main, seeing as the Beef Wellington had been so cruelly devoured by our fellow diners. Go for simple fish and chips? (Which I’ve heard are very good here.) Or something a bit more complex? We decide on John Dory, a white fish that is a subtle delight — fragrant with purple sprouting broccoli spectacularly combined with shrimps and hazelnuts. Our other dish (we intended to share) is pot roast lamb breast with celeriac remoulade, but when it arrives, my companion informs me she doesn’t like lamb, and so she delicately devours the John Dory. I’m left with the hearty wheels of lamb, which are a fine wintry dish, punchy, with a fine gravy. It’s thoroughly perfect, yet I feel I’ve been outmanoeuvred, and not for the first time.
For dessert, however, I win. I smugly inhale the verging-on-divine baked custard with Armagnac prunes, another highlight. My companion tucks into a splendid apple pie with cinnamon ice cream, which tastes as fruity as a Christmas mince pie.
We leave reluctantly, as full as we are, but I shall have to return for the excuse of trying that Beef Wellington (by getting in there early) and some more of London’s most magnificent gin cocktails.