Built in 1874, the Criterion must be one of London’s loveliest dining rooms with its fabulous baroque-style gold ceilings and marble columns. The place where Churchill and Lloyd George once thrashed out their political views is now popular with tourists, office workers and a theatre-going bridge-and-tunnel crowd. At first we were hopeful – tables are well spaced, the acoustics good, the staff attentive. A £23 set menu rich in prime British ingredients (Hereford beef, Shetland mussels, Suffolk lamb) set a pleasingly patriotic tone. Sadly, though, the cooking proved too erratic to do full justice to the room. Low marks went to an oversalted Aylesbury duck leg with broccoli – an uninspired, school-dinner dish undeserving of its £3 supplement. Wester Ross salmon, perched on a nest of samphire over a pool of beetroot, was better – but far from thrilling. Other diners seemed happy enough. By 9pm every table had gone, the room was buzzing and a male singer was crooning bluegrass numbers. An unseasonal strawberry and raspberry eton mess, prettily deconstructed into its separate elements, arrived just as a Spanish tour group trooped through the restaurant, too jaded and footsore to even notice the beauty of their surroundings.