Summer at Spring
Breaking the fourth wall, to use Housewives of New York franchise parlance, this article originally recorded the first visit to the restaurant eight years ago. The Park Lane ambassadress is now an Ascot lady of leisure, the Green Park restaurateur is taking Riyadh by sandstorm and the Beverly Hills realtor is still selling Sunset Boulevard dreams. This second visit focuses on an architecture and food photoshoot – and a decent excuse to enjoy Thursday lunch.
The set menu isn’t daylight robbery: three courses for £33. And it’s hyper seasonal having been just launched today never mind being pescatarian to perfection. Salt baked beetroot with crème fraîche and herbs. Grilled mackerel with slow cooked fennel and salsa rossa. Lemon verbena with rye shortbread and blackcurrant sauce. Lunch for under £100 (including obligatory Viognier and even a £5 donation to the Felix Project food charity)! We’re full again and so is Spring. There’s deflation for you. Rewinding back nearly a decade …
At a Lavender’s Blue dinner with a Park Lane ambassadress, a Green Park restaurateur and a Beverly Hills realtor, the conversation naturally turned to Lisa Vanderpump. But it was the combination of the interior and food – good taste and tastes good – that proved the hot topic in the cool surroundings of Spring. Even if Ruby Wax was within earshot of our table. Spring is the best of the six dining rooms in the people’s palace of London, Somerset House on The Strand. That’s why it’s full and we’re full on a Monday night.
Somerset House has a surprisingly coherent architecture considering Sir William Chambers’ 1770s masterpiece has been tinkered with ever since he laid the cornerstone. James Wyatt to Sir Robert Smirke to Sir Albert Richardson have all had a go at it. Five wings spread out from the Strand Block like a cyclopean crustacean (crab with nduja and yellow polenta £16 or grilled lobster with curry leaves, tomato and bhatura £34). Spring is in the New Wing. Newness is relative – it was designed by James Pennethorne in 1849. The restaurant is chef Skye Gyngell’s latest enterprise in London. Australian born Skye was previously head chef of Petersham Nurseries, the restaurant with a garden centre attached.
Horses for courses although we’d prefer not for main course (halibut with spinach, chilli and preserved lemon dressing £32) and course after course at Spring is not coarse of course but rather seasonal – and sensational. Crisp but not autumnal (fritto misto of prawns with lemon pinwheels and foraged herbs £16). Cold but not wintry (rhubarb and rye tart with crème fraîche £8). Pantaloon and stripy sweater clad waiters resemble – dare we say – Venetian robbers. Perhaps later they’ll find a gondola to steal away home down the Thames.