NOTE: Since this review was published, Rowley Leigh has sold out his share in the restaurant. He is acting as a consultant and the kitchen is being run by one of his team. A refurbishment has been scheduled over Christmas 2014 and the restaurant will reopen in 2015. The Time Out Eatiing and Drinking Team
Whiteley’s may have seen better days, but Rowley Leigh’s celebrated brasserie looks as good as ever, with its art deco lines, tall leaded windows and graceful grey-green banquettes. At one end, beneath a stunning chandelier, is the café/oyster bar; at the other the open kitchen. The appealing menu is nicely varied, from raw, cured and smoked seafood and meat (oysters, pickled herrings, rabbit rillettes) via assorted appetisers (the famous parmesan custard with anchovy toast, watercress soup) to straightforward bistro fare (omelette, burger, fish pie). Prices are steepish, but don’t have to be: roast chicken leg with oregano and skordalia costs under a tenner. We enjoyed some excellent fish dishes – a juicy slab of hake with samphire and tomato (from the summer set menu) and two lip-smacking mackerel fillets that paired perfectly with gooseberry sauce – but kipper pâté (served in a dinky Kilner jar) was a bit rough and ready, and came with burnt toast and a cold soft-boiled egg. Staff were charming and attentive, and the wine list is enticing (if expensive). The main problem on our visit was lack of atmosphere; it’s a big room, and without the hustle and bustle of a crowd can seem painfully quiet – a problem that no amount of culinary fireworks can remedy.