Quaglino’s reputation preceeds it: a celebrity hotspot synonymous with fine dining and glamour. From their art deco exterior to the elegant ballroom, the historic West End venue has all the hallmarks of an evening out worth the big bucks. I took a visit on a wet Thursday evening, and Quaglino’s totally brightened up my night – here’s my review.
The history of Quaglino’s
First things first, to truly understand the grandeur of Quaglino’s, you’ve got to know its history. Quaglino’s was founded nearly 100 years ago, in 1929, by Giovanni Quaglino, and the venue fast became known for its fashionably late supper, music, and dancing into the night. Favoured by high society, even Queen Elizabeth II herself loved the place. In fact, this restaurant is billed as the first public restaurant a reigning monarch had dined in when she visited after her coronation in 1952. A photo from one of her visits sits alongside many other superstar visitors, like George Michael and Muhammad Ali, on a wall by the welcome desk.
Following the founder’s retirement, Quaglino’s was re-opened by Conran Restaurant in 1993, and is today part of D&D London, who also have the likes of Bluebird Chelsea, 100 Wardour Street, Coq D’Argent, and German Gymnasium under their umbrella.
The dining experience
As I sauntered down the venue’s famous staircase into the grand room, with its chic black and gold decor, mirrored walls, and the centralised, show-stopping bar before me, those hanger pangs were joined by butterflies of excitement. The menu here is billed as sumptuous European dining, paired with live music.
I enjoyed the soft mackerel starter with its satisfying crispy skin; the smoked red pepper piperade brought something really lovely to the dish too. The beef tartare is also a good option, with a great combination of flavours, and even a spicy kick. Come mains, I surprised myself and went for the veggie option: roasted harissa aubergine, spiced quinoa salad, and pickled shallots. I enjoyed the variation in texture and the more zingy edge to the dish, which was unexpected. I did, however, miss having a warm main, but that is the result of my own actions. Consequently, my friend had the guinea fowl, which she described as very tender; she was also impressed with the black garlic emulsion and tarragon jus. The accompaniment of vegetables, instead of potatoes, meant the dish wasn’t too heavy.
Now, my favourite dish of the night was dessert: the valrhona chocolate and praline fondant, served with dulce de leche ice cream. Initially, it just seemed too pretty to eat, but my goodness, you must. Silky smooth chocolate with the praline crunch, warm fondant with cold ice cream – it’s a perfect marriage of opposites. When the richness of the chocolate gets too much, the lighter (but still sweet) dulce de leche ice cream breaks it up.
The presentation of all dishes was so pretty; it’s clear a lot of care is taken to prepare the dishes. The portion sizes were good for me too, as I left full, but not uncomfortably stuffed.
As for the drinks, Quaglino’s cocktail list is seasonal, with the current menu taking inspiration from historical architectures around the world. There are also four ‘Quaglino’s Specials’ cocktails, designed to represent the best the bar has to offer. Despite normally being a cocktail gal, I actually went for wine on my visit. The attentive staff recommended a rose wine, based on the dishes we chose, so we could get the best flavour experience.
Live music at Quaglino’s
Quaglino’s boasts a schedule of live music, seven days a week. Taking it back to the heyday of glitz and glamour, performers predominantly fall under the jazz, blues and soul genres. A commanding presence on the stage, singers perform across half an hour at 7pm, 8pm, 9pm, and 10pm; it’s actually a really good marker for the time, which normally can get away with you as you enjoy dinner. In between performances, jazz and swing music quietly plays, and there is a distinct happy chatter about the place.
On my visit, returning jazz and swing artist, Martin John, took to the stage, performing a number of classic hits, including tunes from Nat King Cole, Dinah Washington, and Michael Buble. He was very charismatic, and provided an exceptional soundtrack to our evening.
All in all, Quaglino’s is definitely a restaurant everyone should visit at least once. As previously mentioned, the staff are exceptional in their service, and the whole evening transports you away from modern day London and into glamorous time capsule.