As we contemplate our post-referendum future – and how we should conduct our negotiations with Brussels – it is apt to record a visit to a restaurant connected to the prime minister who led Britain’s most effective intervention in that part of the world – the Duke of Wellington. The duke’s former London house, still known as No 1 London, sits opposite the Oval Restaurant in the Wellesley Hotel – and he would no doubt have felt at home in the splendid marble and leather interiors of this high-end establishment.
The Oval Restaurant
The Wellesley Hotel, 11 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LY
020 7235 3535
The dining room is discreet and understated; the food is exceptional and the service militarily efficient. Fish is a strong suit, so we tried the Dover sole meunière with grilled asparagus and the wild seabass and salt crust with seasonal vegetables. Both were difficult to fault, as had been the swordfish carpaccio which preceded them. Whatever else is said about the EU fisheries policy, it cannot be accused of lowering the quality of fresh fish in our restaurants.
A chocolate dome with pistachio mousse and a chestnut semifreddo with homemade ice cream proved to be excellent palette cleansers. A meal for two is around £100.
At this point, the evening took an unusual turn as we were invited to inspect the cigar lounge. This is said to be the finest in London – and the floor is covered by a map of Cuba. Feeling that our post-EU future might require us to embrace a more outward-looking approach, we carried out our inspection with great care and considerable admiration.
The craftsmanship of the wood panelling in the room is matched by the attention put into the construction of the cigars. The prize exhibits are the brand which were said to be the late Fidel Castro’s favourite. I do not know what they cost in Havana, but here they will set you back £5,500. For those looking for a more modest smoke, the entry level cigar is £35.
While this column would not wish to be seen to be promoting a potentially harmful activity, it might seem to some observers of the political landscape as appropriate to end with an image of things going up in smoke.
Christopher Rees had a 40-year career as a solicitor with Freshfields, Bird & Bird, Herbert Smith and Taylor Wessing
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