Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Number Twelve

I was intrigued by Number Twelve -- it's not often that you get good reviews for hotel restaurants (unless they are really super-posh hotels).
This restaurant also happens to be based in the hotel where we stayed for a couple of nights many moons ago, while flat-hunting for our move to London. Now we are plotting our departure (for a few years) so a visit to the restaurant had a nice full circle feel to it.
The hotel has had a complete refit in the intervening years -- my memories are all of chintz and flowery bed spreads, but the photos on the website are all minimalist chic. The restaurant is modern too, but still feels like a hotel eaterie, its decor unmemorable except for the pretty flower stems etched into the flower-to-ceiling windows.
The place was empty, which didn't add to the atmosphere, but then it was 2.30pm on a Sunday. Luckily they sat us at a window overlooking the narrow Woburn Walk, with its pretty balconies, so we could people watch and utterly forget about the empty restaurant behind us. Plus we got two friendly waiting staff to ourselves, ensuring speedy service.

The home-made bread selection was amazing and, at £2, utterly bargainous. I could come here and just eat that with a glass of wine and consider it a pretty perfect repast. This included bread topped with manchengo-like cheese, a croissant-shaped roll speckled with walnuts, a focaccia-tyle cube studded with a cherry tomato .... and plenty of fragrant olive oil to dip it all in.

The 'small' chicory salad (£5.95) featured half a chicory head, its bitterness off-set by slices of pear and walnut, in a surprisingly light dressing Coston Basset stilton (they are big on provenance here), all topped with crispy fried parsley.

The juicy Donald Russell rib eye (£12) came with a gratin dauphinoise which managed to be utterly moreish despite being light on the cream and the cheese, beautifully cooked French green beans and a cute shot glass of the potent meat juices.

From the more than two dozen (!) wines available by the glass or a 375 ml carafe, I chose a glass of the cheapest -- a rich, pungent Temparanillo for a very reasonable £3.50. Generally I'd say the place was pretty good value (especially if you fill up on the bread!) -- their pre-theatre menu includes half a bottle of wine per person, and comes at a very reasonable £22.95 for two courses or £25.95 for three.
And they even give some very nice freebie cakes with the bill!

My biggest regret was that, as it was lunchtime, we were too full to try the huge cheese selection from La Fromagerie (£8.95). Guess we'll just have to come back!

PS While you are in the area, I can highly recommend a visit to the Wellcome Collection, where, among other things, you can see every possible design of forceps, a shrunken head and Napoleon's toothbrush. They do great 30 minute tours perfectly tailored to our (my) modern short attention spans.

Number Twelve, 12 Upper Woburn Place, WC1H 0HX; Tel. 0207 693 5425; Tube: Euston or Russell Square;; closed Saturday lunchtime and Sunday evening.
There's a 25% off food deal on toptable at the moment, and on our bill there was also a voucher for 25% off food if you come back within a month.

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