A few weeks back I won a Twitter competition to enjoy a brunch for two at Villandry on Great Portland Street, so a week later I trotted along one August Saturday morning with my mum, Vicky for a leisurely brunch followed by some retail therapy.
Having only ever popped into Villandry for a tea or coffee with a slice of cake before, I was keen to try out what else they had on offer. Our table was booked for 11:30am and I immediately ordered a Virgin Mary with a pot of tea for Mum, and a latte for myself, whilst we perused the menu.
The Virgin Mary had a good hit of spice in there, which is just how I like them, and for once I wasn’t hungover, so I wasn’t craving a good glug of vodka for that oh-so soothing hair of the dog feeling.
Rather than the traditional egg and bacon options, Mum and I were rather more tempted by their ‘small plates’ section of the menu which had some very enticing sounding dishes listed.
We chose the Villandry Mediterranean mezze platter, a smoked salmon dish, salt and pepper squid, beef carpaccio and a dressed crab salad with some chunky bread – in short, a mini-feast for the pair of us.
The platter consisted of a quenelle each of hummus and babaganoush with some focaccia, some deliciously salty black olives, sun-dried tomatoes, sweet roasted red pepper, some griddled courgette and some mozzarella balls rolled in a mild pesto.
The babaganoush and focaccia were the stand-outs of the mezze. In fact, all of the bread is produced on-site and is outstanding, but the focaccia had an extra something – a slight garlic hue with the crunch of sea salt, it was sensational – I could have certainly eaten more of it. The babaganoush had a coarse, chunky texture and a divine smoked flavour – again, I could have eaten tons more of it, but luckily we had plenty more to get through.
The Severn & Wye smoked salmon had a beautiful flavour, gently smoky and with a melt in the mouth texture, the drizzle of lemon over it only improved it, with of course the essential sprinkling of black pepper. Eaten with a hunk of the delicious Villandry bread, this was a winner.
The salt and pepper squid was fantastic. Coated in a beautifully light batter that was packed full of flavour, the squid was cooked to perfection, unlike so many other venues that over-cook their squid, this was light with just a touch of bite to it, but had, happily, completely avoided that awful rubberiness that I’ve experienced time and time again elsewhere. I did find it a little strange that this was served with what tasted and looked like a thousand island dressing, but hey ho.
The other real winning dish was the dressed crab and avocado salad. Once again the quality and flavour of the crab was excellent, and with a little green leaf covering the mound of crab, and the cucumber jelly which covered the square plate, it was a very, very pretty plate and certainly wasn’t a case of style over substance. I would actually return for this alone as a delightful lunch dish.
The only other dish we had was the beef carpaccio, which was the only thing that there was really any left of at the end of our feast. It was perfectly acceptable in terms of quality, but really was lacking in seasoning, and when compared to the delights of the squid, salmon, crab and the mezze platter, it just didn’t match up, but as we’d over ordered anyway, this wasn’t a problem at all.
The service was attentive, friendly and informative throughout our brunch at Villandry. We sat in the restaurant area rather that the café, which was a mistake as there was much more of a buzz in the café area that was packed full, but this certainly didn’t detract from what was a very pleasurable meal. We were gifted a £50 voucher and had a small bill of £8 to pay at the end so this also presents good value in the heart of the West End. Definitely a key contender for the best brunch spots, but I will certainly return to try some of the main dishes too as they all sounded rather glorious too.