Terence Conran’s restaurants first impressed, then suffered a long period where one associated them with 2-for-1 offers in the Sunday Times. It happens to a lot of the big name restaurants that grow too big, too fast. But Conran has abandoned his empire, to return to his roots – simple, fine dining, featuring his signature designs from the kitchen layout to the salt and pepper shakers.
Lutyens is one of the newer, prized possessions, just two years old, and occupies a building with its own pedigree. Number 85 Fleet Street, was the first home to Reuters, with other recognizable newspapers as its neighbours. The building also housed a debating society. Little wonder it attracted journalists.
The bar is a good meeting place with an informal vibe and a charcuterie. But it’s the dining room menu that instantly drew me and my companion, a fellow foodie, in for its seasonal dishes and a few items not often seen, like a side of roasted onions.
We were quickly slapped down by a waiter who told us after we’d chosen our mains, that the pan-fried langoustines I was lusting for were not available due to a supplier shortage. So I thought the gazpacho, from the ‘menu compris’ sounded like a lovely, summery starter. Ah, but the chef is very strict, and won’t mix and match items from different menu’s, we were told. Strike two! Mind you, the waiter conveyed the bad news in the nicest possible way, but still, we found it all a bit disappointing.
We settled on the artichoke salad and Suisse soufflé for our first dishes. The soufflé was light as a feather, and surrounded by enough melted Gruyere to send my companion to a cardiologist. The artichokes were vinegary and left my lips in a pucker.
Shellfish is what Lutyens seems to do best. A starter which we requested as a main (and thankfully weren’t turned down), was a successful plate of scallops with a pimiento salsa. It had my companion green with order envy. His salmon with pea veloute was pretty, but didn’t quite do it for him. But the spinach was sublime, with just a hint of nutmeg and that not-too-much, not-too-little bit of olive oil.
We skipped desserts in favour of a stroll downstairs, where much of the building’s historical feel resides, alongside the wine cellar, private club reside, and a few meeting rooms.
We desperately wanted to love Lutyens. The staff was notably warm, friendly, and hospitable. Our water glasses never empty. And, to be fair, we did like it, but for a place like this to excel, the chef, and his suppliers, need to step up a bit. But if you’re near St. Paul’s, Temple, or Chancery Lane and have a hankering for crustacea, Lutyens is a safe bet.
85 Fleet Street
London EC4Y 1AE