Island Grill, Lancaster Terrace, Bayswater Road, W2 2TY. Tel: 0207 551 6070.
Adam Courtney eats at Island Grill, Lancaster Terrace, Bayswater Road, W2 2TY. Tel: 0207 551 6070.
IN the hotel-heavy area north of Hyde Park near Lancaster Gate, most of the restaurants are hidden away for the guests and/or priced very much with the American tourist in mind.
It was a pleasant surprise, then, that on a rare balmy evening last month we came across the Island Grill in Bayswater Road. Attached to the Lancaster London Hotel, the restaurant is nevertheless open to all and, for such a smart area, very reasonably priced, almost suspiciously so.
The surroundings and location demanded suitably grand prices, we thought, but we were surprised to note the average cost of a main course was about £12, which fuelled our predispositions about the food quality. They would turn out to be mainly unfounded, but more on the dishes shortly.
A split-level affair, the restaurant has huge glass windows with excellent views of the Italian Gardens in Hyde Park, while the slate bar and ebony walls reminded me of some of the slick, higher end Middle-Eastern restaurants in the centre of town. It was not a surprise to learn the brains behind the design of Fakhreldine, the big Lebanese restaurant in Piccadilly, were also behind the interior of Island Grill.
The menu is very simple but purports to be based on what has become the London standard of 'fresh, seasonal, local' ingredients. Starters include smoked salmon, calamari, pate and seared scallops, while the mains featured three cuts of steak, seabass, fish and chips (one for the tourists?), and pork belly.
We took a seat in the nicely air conditioned upper level by one of the floor-to-ceiling windows. I chose the broccoli and stilton soup of the day which, despite being overheated in what surely was a microwave, had a good depth of flavour once it had cooled down.
Scallops with bacon and marinated artichoke were, if anything, slightly undercooked, but were nicely caramelised on the top and base. Between courses we studied our neighbours and it was clear most of the diners were indeed tourists. Any native, though, would have been more than happy with the very acceptable and fairly priced 10oz sirloin steak (£16.50). But while the meat was nicely chargrilled and tender enough, it was somewhat let down by the wild mushroom sauce, ordered on the side. Suspiciously reminiscent of the stuff they use with beef and black beans in a Chinese, it was overpowering and lacked any discernible mushrooms. Go for the garlic butter instead.
The fillet steak (£17.95) enjoyed by my friend was also a fine cut of meat and, with said butter, was a very wise choice, Wines are served by the glass (starting from £3.50), the carafe or the bottle and there is a small, but select list, dominated by the French. We enjoyed a bottle of the pinot noir (£25.95).
An express menu is served at lunch time and the early evenings and, for a good value, freshly cooked snack in airy, classy surroundings, you could do a lot worse than dropping by after an afternoon of shopping or soaking up some rays in the park.
We were in a rush so didn't try pudding but then, on our way out, noticed a Jude's Ice Cream retro cart outside the door, which happens to be affiliated with the restaurant and will be outside until September, apparently. Pray for more sunny days because the salted caramel flavour was particularly moreish.