In restaurants, I tend to order interesting sounding things. But the started of snail gratin had me completely baffled. A large ramekin was filled with those tiny little white onions that are usually pickled (though luckily this time were not), drowned in a strange mix of tomato pure and bread crumbs with a few lardons for good measure. Hiding inside were a few juicy snails. "Hmmm... interesting..," said my companion. He was being kind. The dish was somewhat redeemed though by a big piece of lusciously cheesy wafer type thing (which didn't go at all, but was yummy on its own). We also sampled a pale pink salmon and scallop terrine which was just terribly bland. The mains took their time to arrive, leaving the waiters plenty of time to ply us with wine at a dangerous frequency. But they did reluctantly provide some non-bottled water and voluntarily refilled that too. When they did arrive, the mains were a huge improvement on the starters. The wing of skate came was beautifully buttery atop of some rather interesting fennel. My gnocchi were huge and clearly home made. They were a touch sweet but this was more than made up for by the huge pile of delicious wild mushrooms, a beautifully cooked quail egg and a little hill of refreshing tomato salad on the side. So we left filled up and happy, with only a modest dent to the pocket. But given the stunning location inside Somerset House, the Admiralty could -- should -- be much better, both in food and in decor.
The Admiralty, Somerset House, The Strand, WC2R 1LA; Tel: 020 7845 4600; Tube: Temple www.somersethouse.org.uk