Dinner at The Northall is a placid affair — our encounter with the Corinthia Hotel's incredibly British restaurant was on a Friday night, but the attractive dove-grey-accented dining room was reasonably quiet. Still, the glassware sparkled, the staff were welcoming and the leather seating perfect for sinking into after a long week
Dishes at The Northall are neatly listed with all aspects of the dish mentioned (great for gauging which side dishes are required) and their British producers name-checked, which was a nice touch. I opted for the dressed crab with mayonnaise and Melba toast, while my guest couldn't resist the lone exotic candidate, carpaccio of tuna, ginger and soya.
Both dishes were elegantly presented, although the crab was not a complete joy to eat, tiny bits of shell or sinew disrupting the creamy crabmeat and crisp half-moons of toast snapping off and scattering everywhere. The carpaccio was more of a mellow starter, with a lovely smooth texture and a perfect aroma of ginger and soy (in my opinion; the tuna-orderer could have done with more of a ginger hit).
Mains of cornfed chicken and Goosnargh duck were beautifully cooked and daintily flavoured — the duck's mouthwatering pickled red cabbage stealing the show from the less evident maple jus promised on the menu. A bottle of Sancerre, selected with help from an excellent sommelier, was just the ticket, along with our creamy potato and green bean sides.
Though full from the generous main courses, we valiantly ordered the intriguing 'chocolate and mint textures', along with a passion fruit and mango Pavlova, which came served in a Martini glass. As one slightly phobic of heavy puddings, the 'textures' could have been designed for me — lightly scented mint ice cream and pannacotta were encased in crispy layers and dark chocolate flakes.
We certainly needed a peppermint tea after all that comfort food, and the waiter surprised us with a bowl of chocolate — the creations of Damian Allsop, The Northall's chocolatier.
Generous portions and crowd-pleasing flavour pairings.
Very amiable staff and no sense of being rushed at all.
The menu has a goal and sticks to it; classic, uncomplicated British fare from the nation's finest producers.
The not so good:
Pricey, for dishes that seem only a step above most rural gastropubs. If the homegrown ingredients are what boost the prices, this isn't reflected in the taste.
A pleasingly central restaurant that could do with a bit more character and perhaps a rethink of its prices — I'd definitely go back but would opt for the £28-a-head prix fixe.
The Northall, 10 Northumberland Avenue, London WC2N 5AE (+44 (0)20 7321 3100; thenorthall.co.uk).