Steeped in history, the Criterion Restaurant has been around for over 100 years (first opening its doors in 1873). It is an institution not just on account of its age but the history made in the restaurant.
Its opulent rooms have seen a lot of history and made some legends. It is in this drawing room where the charged negotiations between Winston Churchill and David Lloyd George took place that shaped much of british history in that time. It was also the place conjured up by Arthur Conon Doyle where the first meeting between the famous duo of sleuths Sherlock Homes and Dr Watson took place. The famous Luncheon Club of the 1920s which saw personalities like Edgar Wallace, Sir Hugh Walpole, G.K. Chesterton and Bertrand Russell congregate in these rooms. The list goes on…….if only walls could speak of the secrets they heard. Today, while it is not the celebrity magnet it used to be, it still has all the elements that make a dinner out a true dining experience.
Designed by Thomas Verity, straight after he had designed the Royal Albert Hall, it sits in the bustling heart of Piccadilly Circus, in winter white neo Byzantine style of building. Your entry into the expansive and romantic dining rooms will be accompanied with a sharp intake of breadth (guaranteed every time)…..as you sight its curved ceilings, gold leaf mosaic detail, mirrored walls, semi precious stone studded grey marble walls and arches, adding to a very special dining experience. Few restaurants in the world can boast of ceilings with golf mosaic valued at 9 million pounds sterling.
The Criterion has itself gone through a number of renovations (including removing the ghastly 1960s formica walls that once shrouded these grand walls) and cuisine revivals, the most famous of which was when Marco Pierre White took over the kitchens in 1995. Today the dining experience has been updated with new chef (Matthew Foxon) and new front of house manager and offers modern European cuisine some old favourites with an utterly modern twist.
Starters included foie gras parfait, gazpacho, waldorf salad and beef carpaccio. Mains included new season lamb, Gloucester pork. several fish dishes inluding wild turbot and Cornish lemon sole, and duck. There was a list from the grills with a wide choice of beef cuts and or course if you did not want to go ala carte you can opt for one of thier set dinners at around 25 for 2 courses and 32 for 3 courses. As service was brisk, it made this set dinner option a great pre-theatre idea.
Service was polished – Francisco, our head waiter who came with extensive well credentialled experience, attended to our every need, including our request to have the fish grilled rather than pan fried as it was on the menu.