There are few names in the London restaurant world that can evoke such strong impressions of grandeur and British tradition as the Waldorf Hilton. Sat in the city’s theatre land, the Waldorf has been a staple of London excellence since 1908, and has maintained this position thanks to its unchanging standards, but also thanks to its ability to change with the times.
Perhaps its most famous restaurant inside is Homage – an undoubtedly grand space of beautiful Louis XVI-style surroundings of gold-topped pillars and stunning chandeliers. Looking over the set menu, we were not surprised to see a selection of what Homage has become so well-respected for – classic European dishes made without compromise. No corners are cut with the quality of the ingredients going into them, and nothing is played too safe or restrained. Instead, contemporary tweaks are dotted around the menu, without seeming like they’ve been injected just for appearances.
Scottish hot smoked salmon set in a garden of peas
To start, we ordered the Scottish hot smoked salmon set in a garden of peas. The strength of dishes like this lie in their simplicity, and we were pleased to see that this rang true here – the fresh salmon didn’t need any piquant additions to it in order to give the dish any kind of edge. Instead, the lightly salted flakes of fish paired perfectly with the peas, and didn’t last long on the plate.
Parma ham salad
We were going to order the duck confit for our second starter, but were told that none was available unfortunately. In most restaurants, you’d be left to order one of the other options from the menu, but Homage prides itself on matching its historic settings with the kind of historic service that would have featured at this restaurant back in the early years of the last century. We were told that the kitchen had prepared a substitute, and were treated to a beautifully presented salad, which included slices of the most exquisite wafer-thin Parma ham. Menu limitations due to high demand are a problem that every restaurant comes across at some stage, but it’s a good indication of an establishment’s ethos when they actively take steps to make sure the diner isn’t left disappointed.
Slow-cooked organic pork belly with cavolo nero, braised golden raisins and cauliflower puree
With its heritage as being a landmark of British fine dining in London, we couldn’t wait to see how Homage handled a favourite like slow-cooked organic pork belly. Served with braised golden raisins, cavolo nero and cauliflower puree, this was pork whose appearance just screamed how good it was going to taste. To begin with, the crackling, despite being a magnificent caramel brown, was entirely easy to cut through – we’ve all come up against crackling somewhere that is harder than diamond, and against even Wolverine’s adamantium claws would put up a fight. Here however, the knife sliced cleany through it and down through the juicy pork with minimal fuss. Allowing the meat to soak up the thick, sinfully rich reduction that sat alongside the puree was an essential move, and gave the pork an almost smoky flavour that isn’t usually found in a dish like this. The cavolo nero was a fantastic addition to the dish, as it held a chewy quality that, due to the melt-in-the-mouth nature of the pork, some people ordering a meat dish may be expecting.
Lamb cutlets with daily vegetables, jacket potato, and red wine reduction
After quickly seeing how fantastically Homage handled roast pork, we were extremely glad we’d chosen to also order something from the grill section. Our lamb cutlets came with a dark, rich wed wine reduction, daily vegetables, and a small baked potato. Bringing all of them together on the dish was reminiscent of a treat you’d get in a small countryside restaurant, with everything fresh from the farm. The lamb, much like the pork, was visually very telling in its high quality. Every so slightly glistening in the intimate lighting of the restaurant, it was clear to see that these were cutlets that were going to be abundantly juicy. Such was the richness of the meat itself that we were in two minds as to add the red wine reduction. Settling to use it for half of the lamb, it was a real pleasure to switch back and forth between the two distinct ways of enjoying the cutlets.
Chocolate tarte with pistachio ice cream
We wanted to keep it simple for dessert, so the presence of a chocolate tarte on the menu was too good to pass up. The high cocoa content of the chocolate was immediately recognisable, which acted to round off the smooth, buttery nature of the pastry which was firm and not overly crumbly – something which can get very messy with desserts like this.
London’s dining scene has an ever-expanding collection of draws, specialisms, quirks, and bold ventures that keeps it one of the world’s greatest. However, this globally renowned status as a culinary hotspot was aided by the historic reputations of establishments like The Waldorf, and the meticulous standards that they set to maintain throughout the years. Being able to enjoy three courses as we did, in such a grand setting, for so relatively little is one of the reasons that these traditional powerhouses will never go out of fashion in the capital.
Homage Restaurant at The Waldorf Hilton
The Waldorf Hilton, 22 Aldwych, London, WC2B 4DD