I've long been a lover of Skylon, chef Helena Puolakka's restaurant/grill/bar at the Royal Festival Hall, but so far have only given it the most fleeting of mentions here on twelvepointfivepercent. So I'm very happy to redress that imbalance by telling you about my extremely enjoyable dinner there this week with PJ, my de facto big brother, long-time pal and loyalest confidant.
PJ had snipped a special offer voucher from the Evening Standard promising two courses and a glass of wine for fifteen quid in the informal grill section, and both being well aware of how often such offers can promise more than they deliver,we set ourselves the challenge of seeing how closely we could keep our bill to the offer price.
The 'challenge' started badly - the bar team at Skylon mix such a mean cocktail that I couldn't resist my (usual) very dry Belvedere Martini while PJ slaked his end-of-a-ten-hour-day thirst with a Caipirinha, but these we excluded from the bill as being aperitifs rather than part of dinner. The offer menu was very good; from three choices for each course we opted for gazpacho (me) and chicken foie gras parfait with chutney and brioche toast (PJ) to start followed by, for both of us, confit duck with Puy lentils.
It was all exceptionally good to eat and exceptionally well presented, my gazpacho being a particular highlight garnished with shredded basil and tiny dice - OK, brunoise if you're going to insist on proper foodie terms - of peppers and onion. The accompanying glasses of wine were good and generous; if you bear in mind that a large glass of wine in Skylon is around the £6 mark, it makes the meal an absolute steal at £9 for the two, excellent, courses.
Yes, we strayed slightly from the offer menu, adding a couple of to-be-honest extraneous side dishes (one of honeyed carrots, the other of mixed broad and billy beans, both terrific), but even with those, less the cocktails and plus 12.5% service, we still got away with paying only just north of twenty quid each. Service was typically wonderful (the pointing out of an entirely accidental error on our bill was met with a look of genuine mortification by our lovely waitress), the ambience was buzzing and the company - admittedly not within Skylon's control but entirely within PJ's - was a joy.
I've said it before but I'll say it again for the record: I love Skylon, all of it, from the restaurant to the grill via the bar, and can't recommend it highly enough.
Skylon, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London SE1 8XX Tel: 020 7654 7800 www.skylonrestaurant.com