There's something for everyone at Jason Atherton's latest venture, from super-accessible pasta to the classics, as well as a range of showstopping sides. Janet Harmer checks it out
After five years cooking on the 24th floor of Tower 42 in the City of London, Paul Walsh has come down to earth to take on the role of head chef at the Betterment in Mayfair, the latest opening within the Jason Atherton portfolio of restaurants.
His new role as executive chef at the 308-bedroom Biltmore hotel, owned by Millennium & Copthorne Hotels and operated under Hilton Hotels' new luxury LXR Hotels & Resorts brand, is something of a beast. As well as overseeing the 130-cover Betterment, Walsh is responsible for the food offer across the alfresco Terrace, Tea Lounge, Pine bar, in-room dining and banqueting, including the ballroom, which can seat up to 340 guests.
It is Walsh's intention to bring some of the Michelin-starred restaurant magic he achieved at City Social to Grosvenor Square, where the Biltmore – transformed for £60m from the former Millennium Mayfair hotel – proudly stands.
The name of the Betterment was chosen to reflect Atherton's journey from opening his first restaurant, Pollen Street Social, in 2011, back to Grosvenor Square, which he left nearly 10 years ago – having headed up Maze for Gordon Ramsay at the London Marriott hotel just across the square.
Operating as an all-day dining venue, the Betterment offers a selection of menus from breakfast to a bar-style option outside key dining hours, set lunch menu for £29.50 for three courses and à la carte available at both lunch and dinner.
Walsh wants to ensure that the menus are accessible. Hence à la carte dishes include the less challenging – and exceptionally popular – pasta options, such as shellfish linguine withsea herbs (£26), and Buccleuch Estate rib-eye, beef dripping chips and bone marrow (£34). A selection of fish and meats to share, roasted over the open grill, provide an element of theatre and comfort, be it roast chicken, trompettes, Albufera sauce (£45 for two) or south coast turbot with citrus beurre blanc (£75 for two).
Among the best-selling à la carte starters, roasted Orkney scallops, braised girolles and aged Parmesan (£15) is a standout choice.
Keltic Seafare supplies the plump bivalves – pan-fried and served with a purée of ceps, braised girolles, raw ceps and a Parmesan foam – topped with a dusting of powder created from the scallop roe and nori seaweed for an intense umami hit.
For diners who like to chose something classic, roasted partridge, game, chips and heritage carrots with, bread sauce (£28) is the perfect choice. Walsh's focus on extracting the maximum flavour from every ingredient is highlighted by the process of confiting the carrots in thyme-spiked butter at a temperature of 90°C, before slicing and roasting to provide a concentrated taste.
The short rib, Montgomery Cheddar and bone marrow (£28) is another dish which hits the mark for an explosion of deep flavours.
Forming the base of the dish, the slowly braised rib is accompanied by a creamy mix of baby turnips braised in truffle emulsion, smoked marrow, and diced cheese, with apple gel and celery batons adding a contrasting hint of freshness.
Unexpectedly, the vegetable side dishes add a real wow factor to the dining experience. The onion flower – created by double deep-frying a whole onion that has been brined and dusted in potato starch – served with a mayonnaise spiked with chive oil (£8), looks impressive as well as being equally indulgent and moreish.
Other accompaniments include New Forest wild mushrooms and smoked egg yolk (£12) and confit Basque peppers (£8).
Desserts include a refined variation of a traditional Victoria sponge, sandwiched with white chocolate and raspberry mousse, and served with a raspberry coulis and yogurt sorbet (£18 for two).
Walsh's hearty menu is well matched by the impressive wine list curated by executive head sommelier Stefan Kobald, who has also joined the Betterment from City Social. The 1,500-strong list covers all areas of the globe, with Burgundy, Bordeaux, South Africa, New Zealand and Argentina currently proving to be the most popular regions. Average spend per head, including wine, is £55-£60.
From the menu
Seafood, starters and salads
- King crab, yuzu and lime £8 (each)
- Isle of Skye langoustine crudo, miso and berries £16
- Quail, maitake mushroom, barley, squash, black garlic £12
- Ox cheek tortellini, horseradish velouté £24
- Kombu-cured halibut, kohlrabi, sea purslane, mushroom dashi £34
- Highland venison, trompettes, quince, cime di rapa, red cabbage £34
- Bitter chocolate tart, Tahitian vanilla ice-cream £10
- Baked Ribblesdale goats' curd cheesecake, autumn fruit, gingerbread £10
- Pineapple and coconut mousse, compressed pineapple and lime £9
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