The Criterion feels more like a tourist restaurant than a place you would return to.
If you’re trying to book dinner at short notice, it’s often worthwhile having a peek at the deals on websites like Open Table. This time the £20 for two courses (+ glass of Prosecco) offer at The Criterion caught my eye.
We’d been put off eating here after reading some negative reviews but we liked what we saw when they appeared on Masterchef last year. The offer looked like great value for a Friday night in town too so we took a chance on the critics being wrong.
A set of revolving doors leads you straight into the main dining room. It’s impressive – high ceilinged and old school with a swagger. We’d arrived early and chose to sit in the bar for a while to check it out. Since we were trying to keep costs to a minimum, we avoided aperitifs and duly ordered the cheapest bottle of red on the list (₤22 grenache).
We’d planned on ordering from the British comfort food (punters) menu but we also requested the a la carte in case anything took our fancy. After seeing the prices though (mains £18-£32.50), we quickly settled on the Open Table offer. There weren’t too many options on the cut-price menu so ordering was easy. Terrine and potted shellfish to start, then fish pie and Victorian sausages for our mains.
Starters were simple but surprisingly enjoyable. The terrine came with some piccalilli, which made the dish for me. Potted Shellfish was rich, creamy and generous.
Our main courses were huge – the fish pie was deceptively so because the serving dish was far deeper than it looked. The mash was rich, cheesy and buttery and there was plenty of fish throughout. Victorian sausages was basically bangers and mash (not sure what the Victorians have to do with it). Three sausages, served with a splodge of smooth, luxurious pomme purée. Put it this way, it was enough to silence us and leave my dining partner unable to contemplate dessert. If only I had felt the same.
I ordered the sticky toffee pudding (well, I am a piggy after all). I didn’t need it but it’s one of my favourite desserts so I just couldn’t resist. In hindsight though, I wish I hadn’t bothered. The pudding arrived and to my disappointment it was close to room temperature. It was also exceptionally dense, dry and stodgy. I ate a couple of bites with the accompanying ice cream and left the rest. This piggy hates waste but it just wasn’t pleasant at all. What a shame considering how we’d enjoyed some of the savoury dishes.
The Criterion feels more like a tourist restaurant than a place you would return to. As far as I could tell, many of the other tables also seemed to be taking advantage of the cut-price offer. Having seen the a la carte prices, who can blame them?
Make no mistake, there are countess better options in town – especially if you’re paying full price. Still, if you see an offer, remember that you could do a lot worse. All in all, this was a decent meal, in elegant surroundings with a singing pianist thrown in for good measure.
Set menu £20/£25 for glass of prosecco and 2/3 courses. Our bill came to £75 inclusive of service and a bottle of wine. Service was polite but it slowed later in the service as the restaurant filled up.
Address: 224 Piccadilly, London, W1J 9HP
Phone: 020 7930 0488Visit Site