I for one sometimes hanker to be stuffed to satisfaction. With this in mind, the 7 course tasting menu at Alyn Williams at The Westbury seems a viable candidate. Both the standard and vegetarian menus offer streaks of gastronomic delight, restrained only by the economy of portions.
A single seared scallop is crusted with golden caramelization, whilst the rest of the milky mollusc is seemingly untouched by heat. Cubes of mackeral with truffle are on the same scale as the pomegranate seeds which surround them, but still possess clarity of flavour and balance. Beer braised snails are meaty little balls in a brown butter sauce, covered with a fine potato foam and circle of jelly.
The menu only lists the main components of a dish, such that a dessert of ‘chocolate/lime/dill’ features an aerated edge of milk chocolate, a drop of stinging lime gel, lime foam, and chocolate crumble on an unidentified green emulsion. Although this is both visually arresting and technically gifted, the combination of caustic lime with chocolate is jarring, and the luxury of a dessert is missing.
Food is fashioned with a surgeon’s delicacy, with each object sliced and tweezered into stunning works. In an effort to counter the somewhat tired notion of pseudo-French fine dining, the attempt at innovation is admirable. Still, in many instances there is a fundamental lack of chemistry between components, and I can’t help feeling that the traditionalists have it this time.
I fully appreciate the journey that Alyn Williams has been down – the slog, miserable pay and even less respect (working under Gordon Ramsay first, and then in the heat of a 2 Michelin starred restaurant), to be able to finally have his name on the door. His obvious desire to offer something original and his exceptional technical skills in the kitchen are praiseworthy, but I have a feeling that this is a project for his peers, not customers.
More than creating good food for the sake of it, it is to satisfy that nefarious hunger for acceptance both from the Michelin establishment, and the chefs who cook only for those deified little stars. On that front, Alyn Williams at The Westbury is successful – garnering a star within a year of opening.
In view of this award, the occasional lack of harmony between components on a plate is intolerable. This imbalance echoes in the service, which wavers from being so cloying it is saccharine, to a solemnity more suited at a deathbed. This is not to say that Alyn Williams at The Westbury is inflexible – waiters are open to changing aspects of the tasting menus to suit, and amenable to offering a different dessert so that we can try two. At the price per head (£90 with drinks), it would be churlish not to.
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