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The Criterion – Old School/Tourist Trap

Whenever we’re looking for unplanned dinner options, I often find it worthwhile to have a peek at Toptable. This time the £20 for two courses and a glass of Prosecco deal 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 Hog, in particular was keen to give it a try. We both agreed that the Toptable offer looked like a very good deal for a Friday night in the centre of town, so off we went!

The Criterion

Before the pianist’s arrival

The revolving doors open straight into the main dining room. The room is impressive, high ceilinged and exuding luxury. We arrived early so we were sat in the bar area until our table was ready. We ordered the cheapest bottle of red (₤22 grenache) and were given a bowl of nuts with an unknown sticky coating. We’re still not entirely sure what it was so if anybody knows, please let us know too!

When we were seated, we were given the “British comfort food” menu but also requested the a la carte in case anything took our fancy. After seeing the prices though (mains £18-£32.50), we quicky settled on the Toptable offer. I opted for the terrine, followed by fish pie. Hog had the potted shellfish then Victorian sausages. Both starters were very enjoyable and the piccalilli made the terrine dish for me. The potted shellfish was a sizable starter and the Hog enjoyed the creaminess, whereas I would’ve liked a more fishy flavour.

Potted Shellfish

Potted Shellfish

The main courses were huge too! The fish pie was deceptively so as the serving dish was far deeper than it appeared. The mash was rich, cheesy and buttery and the was plenty of fish throughout. Victorian sausages was basically bangers and mash (not sure what the Victorians have to do with it). It was still a tasty dish though and consisted of three sausages, served with really smooth, luxurious pomme purée. Put it this way, it was enough to silence the Hog and leave him 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 the previous courses.

The Criterion felt more like a destination restaurant rather than a place you would return to. Most of the other tables were taking advantage of the Toptable offer and many looked like they were celebrating special occasions. And having seen the a la carte prices, who would blame them? This is not a critique, merely an observation. Where else can you eat at these prices, in these elegant surroundings, singing pianist included?

Fish Pie

Fish Pie (GIANT!!!)

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.

I think that The Criterion must’ve come on leaps and bounds in the last two years if Jay Rayner’s visit in January 2010 is anything to go by. Maybe he should give it another try.

Address: 224 Piccadilly, London, W1J 9HP

Phone: 020 7930 0488

Web: www.criterionrestaurant.com

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About Lisa C

Lisa C
Lisa was brought up in north London but always wanted to travel. So far she's visited every continent apart from Antarctica. She's also star baker and lead blogger at London Piggy.

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