About a year ago, my good friend Frances announced, rather plaintively, that she’d never been to a smart restaurant. Shocked and appalled, I said I would take her to one for her 30th birthday. “I’m turning 30 too,” chimed Worm, “can I come?” And so started an expensive trend, shared between six of us, for taking one another out for a posh dinner come the big three-oh. Last Thursday, it was Dave’s turn to be spoiled and, as the last of us to leave behind his twenties, we didn’t hold back in welcoming him extravagantly into the fold.
Our evening started at The Connaught Bar, one of the most glamourous, lavish and atmospheric bars in London, housed in Mayfair’s Connaught Hotel, where, feeling like scruffy interlopers in a 1920s outtake, we sipped Hendricks gin and tonics with cucumber (far better than the usual Gordon’s with lemon) and tried to acclimatise to the luxury. It didn’t take long (funny that) and, by the time we had finished our drinks and tripped round the corner to Mount Street, we felt more than at home with the liveried doormen and sumptious surroundings that greeted us at Scott’s.
An institution, open since 1851, in 2007 Scott’s was given a multi-million pound refurbishment by Caprice Holdings (owners of Le Caprice, The Ivy and J Sheekey among other London stalwarts) and has since attracted a troupe of high-profile diners and celebrities through its door. You can see why.
This elegant, opulent room screams expense, good taste and sophistication without screaming at all, conjuring an atmosphere of such cosiness, conviviality and conversation that an entire evening – nay, an entire lifetime – could slip by without one even noticing the absinth green fish-scales that fan out in mosaic tiles around the onyx-topped oval bar, the rich oak-panelled walls that soften chatter to a musical hum, or the beautiful Art Deco-style mirrored screens, which – tucked cleverly behind tables – allow those facing in the pleasure of people-watching (and this, trust me, is the place for it) without straining their heads or appearing indiscreet.
On the night we went, there were no celebs in the house (no, that wasn’t Holly Valance, Dave), but the beautiful (twenty-somethings with killer cheekbones and murderous high heels) and the grotesque (seedy men trying to seduce them; older women trying to imitate them) were out in force, so there was plenty to gawp at (subtly, of course) from our sought-after table – gained through a connection with the maître d – at the front of the restaurant.
We kicked off proceedings with a dozen mixed oysters – three Lindisfarne rocks, three Whitstable natives No. 2, three West Mersea natives No. 2 and three Carlingford Rocks – which were small, sweet and delicious, with the round Whitstable variety stealing the show. For my starter, I had the marinated salmon with blood oranges, cucumber and shaved fennel salad, which was fresh and seasonal and a clever combination of flavours. Worm’s baked spiced crab with toasted ficelle was a splendid looking thing – a Philip Treacy, crustacean-inspired hat – with a rich and creamy edible interior.
Meanwhile, Becca gave the thumbs up to her sautéed cod tongues with braised lentils and bacon and Fran said her sautéed razor clams with wild boar sausage were “delicious.” The only complaint was from The Heid, whose octopus carpaccio with chilli, spring-onion and cucumber was, he said, slightly too salty for his taste.
For mains, the girls stuck together with hake – a white, flaky fish and member of the cod family that one finds a lot on menus in Spain – whose firm texture and delicate iron flavour went beautifully with a cockle, chilli and garlic sauce, though I couldn’t help being slightly jealous of Dave’s simple seared sea bass with lemon and herb butter, not to mention Scott’s famous smoked haddock, colcannon, poached egg and grain mustard dish, which I spied being enjoyed on the next door table.
We shared an array of sides between us, one of which – charred and squidgy Jerusalem artichoke hearts – was judged the best side dish any of us had ever eaten, and three puddings for the table – passion fruit sorbet, a pecan and whisky tart and mint chocolate chip ice cream with a jug of dark and glossy hot chocolate sauce – rounded things off on a well-chimed sweet note.
But it’s impossible to talk about Scott’s without mentioning the service, which – honed, no doubt, by the demands of the rich and famous – was exemplary: unself-conscious, charming, friendly, informative, knowledgeable and seemingly effortless (though we all know that service like this is anything but).
On returning from the loos (worthy of an enthusiastic mention in their own right), my chair was pulled out and tucked under me as if by magic and the delicious St. Véran Tradition 2010 Collovray & Terrier wine, well-chosen by The Heid, seemed to pour itself gracefully all evening long. It all added up to a flawless experience and one well worth the expense for all the pleasure it continues to give me as I remember it – I just hope we don’t have to wait for 40 to treat ourselves this majestically again.
20 Mount Street
T: 020 7495 7309