The Wigmore: Review
Words & Photography: Chris Pople
‘Your new local pub in London’, their website confidently declares, and yet the moment you step into this grand dining hall attached to the Langham hotel, it’s abundantly clear the Wigmore has about as much in common with your local boozer as the Ritz does with a branch of Greggs. It is, for all intents and purposes, a smart, modern restaurant — serving a burger and chips (or rather, cheeseburger with grilled ox-tongue and crispy shallots, and fat chips with Bloody Mary salt) and having ale on tap isn’t fooling anyone.
It’s the latest From Michel Roux Jr., chef and celebrity Masterchef judge, who, alongside his flagship Le Gavroche, has opened a couple of Michelin-baiting Franglish restaurants that have, if we’re being kind, hardly set the world alight. Surely this will be another boring hotel bistro, serving inoffensive international dishes to tourists and business trippers?
Well, no, actually. In fact, The Wigmore does its thing with such style and energy, and at such eminently reasonable cost, that it’s next to impossible not to enjoy yourself here. Instead of treading water with crowd pleasing hotel lobby standards, the menu is largely full of genuinely inventive and interesting items, vaguely gastropubby but with exciting international colours, and at the kind of prices you rarely see anywhere these days, never mind two minutes walk from Oxford Circus.
Take the ‘crisp ox-tongue potatoes’ for example. Cleverly layered and teased into foot-long batons, each shot through with a sliver of cured beef and fried to golden brown, these would be impressive — and impressive value at a fiver — even without the gorgeously rich and salty anchovy sauce they are presented with. Aside from the passing resemblance to the famous Quality Chop House confit potato, they are something quite new and different, and something approaching an instant classic must-order.
Crab crumpets have also been getting a lot of press — and very nice they are too, buttery and delicate, with a strip of nori adding an interesting Japanese note. If we’re going to be brutally picky, we probably would have liked the crumpets themselves to have a bit of a toasted crunch, but this is a fairly minor niggle in the grand scheme of things. They still tasted great.
It’s true that we as Londoners have been spoiled for good chicken pie of late, and perhaps next to the finest examples available (at Holborn Dining Room or Bob Bob Ricard to name but two), this doesn’t quite come out on top. However, despite a lack of seasoning and depth of flavour, it boasted an impressive flaky pastry and a gorgeous gloopy mash in the classic French pomme purée style. Pretty little thing it was, too.
Again, unfortunately for Wigmore, the burger game in London has also gone Premier League in the last few years and their take feels a bit over fussy and underwhelming. The bun was solid, and the beef pretty high quality, but the Cheddar cheese had solidified into a cold, chalky layer (really guys, just use processed — you’ll get some snobs moaning about it but it’s an essential part of any good burger), and we’re not sure what the layer of chewy ox tongue and crisp fried shallots added other than a vague sense of confusion.
That said, even if the burger was just an excuse to order a portion of chips, it would almost still be worth it. Sitting geometrically exact in their bowl like a collapsed game of Jenga, a bite through the supremely brittle crust revealed an inside so soft and creamy it was like they’d been injected full of the mash that came with the chicken pie earlier. Very, very good, with the ‘Bloody Mary salt’ providing tangy seasoning.
Our faith in the competence and creativity of the Wigmore kitchens necessitated the ordering of dessert, and the raspberry trifle didn’t disappoint — full of fresh summer flavours, a good light vanilla custard, a remarkably boozy sponge base and topped with roasted almonds, it was as good a trifle as you’d ever want or need.
Cheeses, from Neal’s Yard, were all from the British Isles and all in excellent condition. Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire is a perennial crowd pleaser, and you can’t go wrong with Wigmore, but the real star of this plate was St Jude’s from Suffolk, so intensely citrusy that it could easily pass as a fine goat’s. You rarely go far wrong with a Neal’s Yard cheese board — The Wigmore have done well working with this supplier.
That The Wigmore is a fine addition to the London dining scene is, of course, obvious and also most welcome; despite the explosion in the number of great places to eat over the last few years, we should never let ourselves fall into the trap of taking anywhere good for granted. Running a great restaurant is not easy, and The Wigmore should be very pleased with what they’ve achieved. However, a far rarer pleasure is being able to recommend somewhere this good, and this central, where the bill per head will only occasionally top £30. The cynic in us thinks that there’s a good chance prices will creep up once the review period expires, but that’s all the more reason to grab yourself a table as soon as you can. We’re sure you’ll enjoy it just as much as we did.
Check out our video of how they make the XXL Cheese Toastie at The Wigmore.
JOL was invited to review James Cochran N1 on a complimentary basis. We retain full editorial control.