All White on the Night
Steakhouse, Bar & Grill at the Hilton Syon Park for some time now. It is in such a fabulous setting and in the summer it must be really lovely as there is an outside terrace.
We arrived in what seemed, at first, to be a pretty empty restaurant, but discovered that the majority of tables are out of sight of the main restaurant entrance. The word ‘steakhouse’ is a bit of a misnomer, as it is in reality quite a posh hotel restaurant, with white tablecloths and very comfy leather armchairs; more fine dining than casual as the name might suggest. There was a rather ‘corporate’ feel about it, but on a weekday evening at a hotel frequented by the business community, it is to be expected (quite a few tables had a solitary diner, focused intently on their book or magazine).
We started with Mediterranean Fish Soup (£6.95) and Mr White’s Fresh Dressed Crab (£9.95). My husband’s soup - with croutons, rouille, and Gruyere - was tasty, on the thin side though, with no chunks of fish. The rouille was nice with plenty of paprika. It was served on a wooden board, which was unnecessary and didn’t suit the style of restaurant My crab was prettily arranged with grated egg and a couple of thin, lightly grilled, slices of baguette, but I think it would be better with brown bread, or the ‘toast Melba’ as per the menu. As starters, they both pretty much fulfilled the restaurant’s promise of serving classic British and French food. I enquired about the ‘finest quality smoked salmon’ which was described as ‘properly garnished, brown bread and butter’ and sounded intriguing: I was informed ‘properly garnished’ means that it is served with fresh lemon!
Onto our mains: being in a steakhouse, I opted for a grilled 35 day aged sirloin £25.95. It was cooked to perfection and served with a delicious Béarnaise sauce with fresh tarragon and ‘pommes frites’ (in fact they were rather-too-tempting, nice, fat chips.) My husband loves a good steak and ale pie, so chose ‘The Governor’s Steak and Ale Pie’ (£15.50) which was served with peas. It was interesting; a very delicious filling, with not a puff, but a crisp and tasty short crust pastry top. But we were rather surprised that it was served in a rather incongruous, shallow gratin dish.
The dessert menu was interesting. Never one to resist it, my husband chose ‘Mr Coulson’s Sticky Toffee Pudding’. I asked our waiter if he knew who Mr Coulson was, but he didn’t have any idea, nor did any other waiter. I assume that it is the late Francis Coulson of Sharrow Bay hotel fame, who is reputed to have invented the original Sticky Toffee Pudding. But apparently the recipe is top secret, so I can only assume that Marco Pierre White was the anonymous buyer who paid a very generous £32,000 to Children in Need in 2007 to be allowed to make it alongside the Sharrow Bay chef! (see link here for info). I was tempted to try the sherry soaked fruitcake, served with either Blue Monday or Keen’s cheddar cheese. The kitchen kindly provided me with a taster sample of each cheese for comparison, but it was all taken straight from a cold fridge or larder, so one couldn’t really appreciate the combination, as flavours hadn’t had a chance to open up. It is a shame, as I am a real fan of sweet and savoury and it sounded amazing.
Our waiter – Jeronio – was very charming and helpful, as were all the staff. We were told that the restaurant has a very different dynamic at the weekends. There is a set lunch menu (£29) on Saturday and Sunday and apparently, a new special offer menu is about to be launched, so do check the hotel’s website for details.
To summarise, this is one of 24 MP White Steakhouse, Bar and Grills around the UK, so the menu does have a rather prescribed feel. That said, my husband commented that he would have been delighted to dine in one when travelling on business during his previous career in marketing. The hotel isn’t particularly well situated for public transport but it is an inexpensive cab ride if you are based in Twickenham. They also serve afternoon tea for £24 (with a gluten free version available). Or the Cornish cream tea (for just £8.50) seems great value for such a lovely setting, particularly in summer, when I presume it is available on the terrace.