NOTE: In June 2015 it was announced that the Criterion had been placed in administration. The restaurant has continued to operate normally pending further developments.
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.