Experienced Awana in what was probably an untypical situation. That is, on a bank holiday using an evening standard £15 three course set lunch deal. Other reviews I have read do indicate that this place is normally buzzing. Today however we were one of only four tables occupied over lunch. Not that I am complaining – I enjoyed the lunch. It was a very good deal and I suspect because the kitchen was not so busy maybe slightly better cooked food than normal.
The scallops in particular were lovely, subtly flavoured with chilli and lemongrass – really moorish. I joked that they were better than the ones we had at Hibiscus, and realised it was not a joke, as they really were discernibly better. The main course selection was more basic, we had a stir fry and a curry dish. Neither of which would have been worth the full price (but as part of the deal – were more than acceptable). The desserts were interesting too, I had a lovely dish described as egg custard, sogo coconut and caramel, and my companion had a selection of ice creams which were much more adventurous than you expect with a set lunch – including one made from the rather infamous Durian fruit.
We had a couple of very good reasonably priced cocktails in the bar and I was pleasantly surprised by the quality and range of their wine list. As well as a good selection by the glass and several bottles under £30, they had an excellent range of fine wines and champagnes.
We started in the bar area with some delicious canapes and a glass of the house champagne then moved to our table where we had the dilemma, do we go for the tasting menu or do we go À la carte? Tough one.
There were so many lovely sounding starters on the À la carte, we were pushed in that direction. Which was actually a mistake, as we have effectively trained ourselves to appreciate the smaller portions and broader taste range of tasting menus. So the larger portions for the mains were a bit of a struggle. The other plus for going the tasting menu route is if one course is not so great then it’s not such a big deal, as it effectively gets lost in the crowd.
Two of us made main course choices that really showed off The Squares cuisine. I had the Roast Saddle of Lincolnshire Hare with a Tarte Fine of Celeriac and Pear which was amazing and one of my companions had the Fillet of Aged Ayrshire Beef with Autumn Truffle, Smoked Bone Marrow and Red Wine, again stunning but too large a portion. My other companion choose the Caramelised Pork Belly with Glazed Trotter, Savoy Cabbage, Langoustine Claws and Lentils and was very disappointed, as the Pork Belly was very fatty. Which was such as shame as up until that point everything had been sublime.
The pre dessert was a rather nice doughnut and rhubarb/raspberry concoction. Then for dessert I had a very boozy Rum and Raisin Soufflé with Gingerbread Ice Cream – stunning. To finish we then had coffee and some Armagnac. This was served with a nicely balanced selection of petits fours that consisted of some chocolate/nutty/Carmel truffles and a range of lollipop style sweets. We finished them all. Only to have a second set delivered later.
The Square like Hibiscus has 2 Michelin stars and 4 AA Rosettes, but from the point of view of imagination and food quality based on our visits to both these restaurants, the Square is streets ahead of Hibiscus. However when we directly compared it to Tom Aikens which has 1 Michelin star and 5 AA Rosettes, the conclusion was that Tom Aikens pipped The Square at the post.
For a while Hibiscus seemed to be the most talked about place. Everyone just raved about it. We even had it recommended while in L’Astrance in Paris.
The conclusion from our visit on a Saturday evening when they only do tasting menus (a rather mercenary approach in my view), was that it was over hyped, overpriced rather boring food.
When the best dish in a £175 a head meal (food with matching wines) is the cheese course, then there is something wrong.
This restaurant is currently number 56 on the S.Pellegrino World’s Best Restaurants list. It has 2 Michelin stars and 4 AA Rosettes, so it should have been superb or a least very good, as at this level there really should be no off days.