Review: Mews of Mayfair

March 27, 2013

It’s a myth that there are no affordable places to eat in Mayfair. There are plenty if you know where to look. But this doesn’t stop every second restaurant that opens within its perimeter from barking about being the only affordable place in the area. Enter the rejuvenated brasserie at Mews of Mayfair.

The sprawling four-floor venue is located down Lancashire Court, which is it obligatory to describe as “charming”. It looks like a Disneyfied version of Victorian London; how A Christmas Carol might look without all the ghosts and poor people. Leave yourself plenty of time to find it though – I spent an increasingly desperate 15 minutes marching from Cartier to Louis Vuitton and back. By the end even the mannequins had started to smirk.

Mews of Mayfair boasts “an air of exclusivity”, but don’t let that put you off: it’s actually quite nice. The brasserie “recently” reopened after a complete refurb and a changing of the guard in the kitchen, which saw Richard Sawyer take over as head chef. I put “recently” in inverted commas because it actually opened last year but has been on an extended “soft opening”, which stretches the concept to breaking point.

Before the refurb, the dining room was a cream disaster; like someone had smeared the place with a thick coat of Devonshire’s finest. Cream chairs and cream walls and a cream bar. If you had ordered anything with cream on it, it would have vanished into the background like a cheap conjuring trick.

Now it adheres to the current vogue of au naturel. It’s philosophy seems to be: if it can be made of wood, then it shall be wood. If not, then let it be stone. Bare stone, carved by the hand by a craftsman living in a bothy somewhere in the Highlands. The walls are covered with framed dried flowers and etchings of trees; it’s like a walk through a hipster forrest.

I went quite late on a Thursday and it still had a pleasant after-work buzz. A couple at the table next door were having an incredibly awkward date, which was made slightly less mortifying by the thrum of voices filling the screaming vacuum of their silence. Provenance is very much the order of the day at Mews of Mayfair. There is even a map on the back of the menu showing you exactly where everything comes from. Before the starters I ordered half a dozen oysters (from Colchester), just for the hell of it. They were nice and plump, well presented and came with a commendable vinaigrette. A good start.

Next up was the Devon crab mayonnaise, which I eventually spotted lurking under a dense thicket of foliage, trying to look inconspicuous. After the task of ditching the plethora of salad wherever I could find space – on a side plate, on the floor, in my pockets – the crustacean itself was a bit of an anticlimax. There was no oomph, no zing, no counterpoint to the timid meat.

The ham hock terrine (also buried under an alarmingly invasive salad) was a better option – a satisfyingly rustic slab of meat and pickles, given a nice kick by the mustard dressing.

For my main: calves liver, which I asked for with a side of Scotch egg. This seemed to momentarily wrong-foot the waiter, who quickly recovered and agreed it was probably an excellent choice to accompany liver.

The cut was decent – a tender wad of offal, well cooked and nicely balanced by strips of smoky bacon. The scotch egg, though. My God, what a scotch egg. Encased in a layer of smoked haddock and prawn lay an egg yolk the colour of a sunset in heaven. It isn’t doing the rest of the food too much of a disservice to say this was the best thing I tasted all night.

The sticky toffee pudding – usually a safe bet – was a disappointment; too spongy, not infused enough with flavour. The apple and blackberry crumble was better but lacked the tartness that makes a crumble really spring to life.

The bill came to £140 including some very nice matched glasses of wine, which isn’t bad, but bear in mind Brasserie Chavot around the corner doesn’t cost a great deal more and that’s run by a former two-Michelin starred chef.

This isn’t to say Mews of Mayfair’s brasserie isn’t a nice little place. It is relaxed and cosy; as good a venue as any for some post-work eating or to host a particularly awkward date. Just don’t forget the Scotch eggs.

First published in City A.M.