The 1950s retro-styled flagship restaurant at the heart of the Royal Festival Hall's £91m refurbishment
Surely the measure of a successful ‘restaurant with a view' is when it has you gazing out only intermittently at the river/ sea/skyline (delete as appropriate).
When most of the guest's attention directed at what one fi nds in a viewless restaurant: at the food, the interior, the service; the view should only ever be a bonus.
So it augurs well that at Skylon, the fi rst UK opening from D&D (formerly Conran Restaurants), in spite of six-metre high fl oorto- ceiling windows looking out at the Thames and Hungerford Bridge, the guest is likely to be far more interested in the goings-on indoors. D&D has created a 90-cover showpiece restaurant in the Conranheyday style: a mammoth revamp in an iconic building – this case in the Royal Festival Hall which has been refurbished over two years to the tune of £91m.
The name is taken from the vast steel, aluminium and wire Powell and Moya sculpture that, like the Royal Festival Hall itself, was central to the 1951 Festival of Britain. Formerly the People's Palace, Skylon's striking interior design is at the heart of the Royal Festival Hall's new look.
Design company Conran & Partners has gone to the length of taking paint scrapings from the building to match a palette of colours in keeping with the Festival of Britain era. Olive green Eero Saarinen chairs (a 1951 design), an olive green carpet, the bronze-clad central bar, and fi ve huge bespoke chandeliers in bronze channel the 1950s spirit.
In the bar you'll fi nd walnut fl oors, golden olive chairs, and period details like black bakelite Pride cutlery (1953) by David Mellor.
Contemporary design details include the Skylon coffee pot by Nick Monro; and uniforms in keeping with the era, with quirky patent details on dresses, belts and pockets, created by outfi tters No Uniform.
Chef Helena Puolakka, who has worked for Pierre Gagnaire and Pierre Koffmann and who was most recently Executive Chef at Harvey Nichols' Fifth Floor heads the kitchen. Duncan Pitfi eld (formerly of the Lanesborough) and Cedric Toussaint (ex Harvey Nichols Fifth Floor) are General Manager and Restaurant Manager respectively.
And rightly enough, Puolakka's modern European cuisine is set off remarkably. The a la carte menu (£29.50/£34.50 for two/three courses at dinner) has got off to a good seasonal start.
Dishes include Fricassée of New Season's Morels and Young Garden Vegetables; Wild Salmon from Scotland, Watercress Cream, Pomme Mousseline; Apricots Roast with Young Girolles and Hazelnuts, Pea Shoot Salad and Chestnut Honey Dressing. Butcher dishes are Lamb Shoulder, Pan-fried Fillet, Kidneys, Gratin of Swiss Chard and Reggiano Parmesan, Griotte Marmelade; and Pan-fried Foie Gras, Smoked Eel and Granny Smith Salad, Crisp Potato Galette. For Pudding there's a suitably retro Crépe Suzette. In the 60-seater Bar and Grill (opening until 1am) the food has a more casual, every day touch: Salmon and Smoked Haddock Fishcakes with Green Salad; Skagen Toast; and Steak Sandwich with Truffl ed Celeriac Remoulade.
The two venue in one approach thus gives visitors to the South Bank on every budget a chance to see that view – should they feel like looking up from their meal.
Where? | Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London SE1, 020 7654 7800