Back to square one: The Square restaurant review

Does the Mayfair favourite still measure up after its recent makeover?


The Square, founded by chef Phil Howard and restaurateur Nigel Platts-Martin in the early 90s, was one of the great London restaurants, with its two Michelin stars, deceptively straightforward Anglo-French menu and a stunning wine list. This was my favourite haute cuisine restaurant in London, along with Pierre Koffmann’s La Tante Claire in Chelsea. After more than two decades at the top of his game, Phil wanted to simplify his cuisine even more, so moved on to a new venture in Chelsea called Elystan Street, which has just been awarded a Michelin star. The Square was taken over by Marlon Abela, another serious player in the haute cuisine and fine wine world, with his Michelin-starred Greenhouse and Umu, both also in Mayfair.

The Square’s interiors were given a serious makeover and the modernist appearance is now more akin to a hip art gallery than a discreet gathering place for hedge funders and bankers. Clement Leroy, formerly of Three Star Michelin Guy Savoy in Paris and his own place in Chantilly, is now in control and his cuisine is anything but simple or straightforward.

The trio of amuse-bouches came inside what looked like a rainbow-hued ceramic clam – a carrot tartlet with coconut foam, sweet corn cromesqui (a deep-fried crumbed croquette) and a seafood cornetto with mint Chantilly. Sadly, their appearance was the best thing to be said about any of them as none had much taste impact.

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Unfortunately, this preliminary experience was consistent with the remainder of the meal – the courses certainly looked stylish, but ultimately lacked sufficient depth of flavour to truly impress. There were some dishes that had enjoyable components, such as smoked eel with caviar but there would be four or five other ingredients that vied for attention. The red mullet with its scales left on also failed to deliver much flavour.

Main courses of sirloin steak and roast lamb both looked stunning – small rectangular portions artfully displayed on the plate. In both cases, the level of consistency in the actual cooking meant they were consistently rare surrounded by a perfectly charred edge. I imagined this must have been achieved by using the sous-vide technique or vacuum-packed “boil in the bag”, but the chef assured me they never used sous-vide in their kitchen.

Lamb (left) and steak (right) both looked stunning, but tasted indistinguishable

Regardless of this, it was almost impossible to taste any difference between the two meats – it was as if they had been homogenised to merely look good and if you closed your eyes, it would be virtually impossible to tell which was which.

Chef Leroy obviously has mastery of technique but sadly, the current cuisine at The Square is defined by its appearance rather than its taste.

The Square, 10 Bruton St London W1J 6PU,, +44 207 495 7100. Set Menu from £37 for lunch and £95 for dinner

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