New all-day restaurant the Strand Dining Rooms opened in a prime spot at the start of the Strand, next to Trafalgar Square, in early July.
Part of the redevelopment of 1-3 Grand Buildings, it has been launched by Mark Harris, whose former roles include general manager at Searcy's at the Gherkin.
Russell Sage Studios – the design team behind London restaurants such as the Savoy Grill, Petrus and Jason Atherton's Social Eating House – has created another attractive dining space here.
Dimly lit, with an impressive double-height bar area at the front leading down to a spacious dining area in three sections (it seats 200, including a mezzanine), it has the feel of a classic railway restaurant, all art deco detailing and wood panelling. The inspiration was a Pullman coach.
There are booths towards the front, and tables and leather chairs to the back. I was in a semicircular booth in the mid-section of the venue, and while the jazz and popular music created a relaxing vibe, it was quiet on the Friday early evening I was there, and hence a little lacking in atmosphere.
Staff, decked out in jaunty tweed and jeans, were friendly and eager to please.
The good-value, unfussy modern European menu has been created by head chef Michael Beugnet, previously of Surrey's Wotton House hotel and Green's in London's St James.
Starters include the likes of heritage beetroot salad with Fletcher's Berkswell cheese, seafood Scotch egg with dark crab sauce, and brawn terrine with pig's head croquette and homemade piccalilli.
I plumped for the Cornish mackerel with tomato salsa, which was attractively presented and well-balanced, while the tangy, basil-infused salsa nicely complementing the fresh, simply seasoned fish. My companion enjoyed the combination of light and sharp flavours in his goats cheese croquette with summer greens salad and raspberry vinaigrette.
Starter: Cornish mackerel with tomato salsa
Main course: Côte de boeuf for two
Main dishes include rack and slow-cooked shoulder of lamb with artichoke, broad bean and cheery tomato salad; 8oz sirloin of Dedham Vale beef with chips, roasted vine cherry tomatoes and béarnaise sauce; and line-caught cod with chive mash, poached eggs and Innis and Gunn ale sauce.
There is also a daily special list — on the evening I dined, this included côte de boeuf for two, which we were keen to try as the manager told us meat was a big focus here. Served sliced on a blue patterned plate with crisp green veg and sweet shallots — richly flavoured mushrooms concealed in the juices below — the meat was nicely pink and flavoursome. I did find parts of it a little fatty, even for a côte de boeuf. Chips were crisp and well-cooked.
We accompanied the meal with a red wine — Tre Fillari, Nero d'Avola, Sicily 2012 — recommended by our waitress and found it nicely balanced and, at £23, very good value. To finish, I had the light and creamy rhubarb egg custard with shortbread.
Enjoyable comfortable food and a stylish setting make the Strand Dining Rooms well worth trying. A welcome addition to the Strand's dining options — a little lacking in buzz when I was there perhaps, but its smack-bang central location should mean it will pick up plenty of trade.
- OPENING HOURS 7am-11am Mon-Fri, 8am-11am Sat-Sun.
- PRICES Starters £8-£14.50, mains £9-£24, desserts £6-£7.50, sides £2.40-£4.
- CONTACT 1-3 Strand, Grand Buildings; tel +4 (0) 20 7930 8855; thestranddiningrooms.com