Test Drives

roomThe redesigned room at Davies and Brook - note the new bar at the back, with a separate space for bar seating in front. 

What can you tell us about Davies and Brook?

Firstly, it's the new main restaurant in one of London's most iconic (a word that's richly deserved in this case) hotels. In recent years, the room has hosted big names with Gordon Ramsay and Simon Rogan's restaurants. Now it's the turn of Davies and Brook where the man in charge is Daniel Humm.

And who's that?

Humm is a huge name in American foodie circles, but less so here. He made his name in America with New York's Eleven Madison Park which he and former business partner Will Guidara bought from Danny Meyer back in 2011. That restaurant is arguably the best in New York and topped the World's 50 Best list back in 2017 (it's now on the Best Of the Best list for former chart-toppers).

Eleven Madison Park was responsible for trailblazing many ideas, one being the simplifying of restaurant menus to the key ingredients of a dish - and there's always been a big focus on service. The motto and name of Humm's restaurant group is "Make it Nice" - an ethos which rather speaks for itself, but covers both the dining experience and working there too. Humm also worked at Claridge's in his early days as a chef - over 25 years ago. 

So it's fair to say there has been a great deal of anticipation for what this hugely influential chef would bring to his first London opening.

roomA close-up look at the bar

Let's start with the room - what's changed there?

Quite a lot, it has to be said. The decor throughout has changed, obviously, with a simplified grey aesthetic throughout. While the room is muted in tone, it may be a little too spartan for some tastes. 

As for the layout of the room - while the overall structure is still there (a main dining space and a raised area by the windows on the right as you go in), there's one big change - the bar. If you visited during the Fera years, you'll see that the bar itself has moved to just to the right of the main entrance to the room (see the picture above) and they've introduced a whole separate section for the bar, which now seats around 20 (including five at the bar counter). 

The private dining room remains where it was, seating 10-12 people. 

roomWe do love a bit of good ice action in our cocktails - note the "B" on the ice. This was a Maple Old Fashioned (Toki Japanese whisky, Amontillado sherry and Benedictine). 

So the bar is the best place to start for a drink?

Absolutely. It means that Claridge's is now blessed with three excellent bars - the main Claridge's bar (a damned good place for a martini), The Fumoir and now the bar at Davies and Brook. Any of them are great choices - but we think the bar in this restaurant serves a few useful purposes (and it's walk-in, so you don't need to book).

First off, it's perfect for a pre/post-dinner drink - the cocktails we had (all priced at £17) were downright excellent. In addition to the one pictured above, the Honey Cobbler (Chivas 12 Year, Lustau Palo Cortado sherry and gardenia) had a taste of honey throughout the drink that transformed it into one of the best cocktails we've had in a while. 

Next, it really helps to give the room more of a vibe. There's a real buzz coming from the bar area, which elevates the atmosphere throughout the room. 

Finally, the bar has its own snacks menu, so it's a really good option for trying out the food at Davies and Brook if you can't get a table. That includes the CFC (Claridge's Fried Chicken) which we're hearing very good things about, black truffle flatbread and breakfast radishes with whipped Triple-Crème and cracked black pepper. We see radishes and dip everywhere these days, but Humm's version at his restaurant at NYC's Nomad hotel still remains one of our favourites. 

Onto the main room - where should we sit?

We had a great seat at the back corner of the room. As you can see from our photo, it's great for people-watching in a restaurant that's bound to get a fair share of celebs. If you're after a little more privacy, consider a table on the raised section, or either of those tables for four behind the flower arrangement. If you want to be seen - sit on the other side. 

How about the food - what can we expect?

It's a fine-dining restaurant, to start with - but one that's at the very top-tier of what fine dining should be. It's delivered in a very non-stuffy manner too. If you're coming for dinner, you have a couple of options. Either go for the tasting menu - that's £145 per person for seven courses - or the a la carte at £98 for four courses (cold/warm starters, mains and dessert). We opted for the latter primarily because we wanted a couple of dishes that were not on the tasting menu.  

And, as you'll know from our set menu round-up, lunch at London's top restaurants often allows folk to try them out without breaking the bank - and Davies and Brook is no exception. The Express Lunch menu is two courses served in an hour for £38 and it's a great opportunity to try the food. 

As for us - here's what we had (some spoilers ahead for the experience - skip past the pics if you want to avoid that).  

roomAll the meals start off with this (an unbilled extra). It's Scallop Variations - one of Daniel Humm's signature dishes. 

roomFrom Cold Starters - this is marinated yellowtail with king oyster mushroom and crispy amaranth (the amaranth was a particularly inspired addition here, adding crunch to the dish). 

roomThe foie gras tart with cocoa and plum (£10 extra) - yes we know it's a controversial choice, but if you love foie this is a super example.

roomFrom warm starters, the dish that made us want to try the a la carte over the tasting menu - King crab chawanmushi with black truffle and daikon (£10 supplement).

roomAnother of Daniel Humm's signature dishes for our main - honey and lavender glazed dry-aged-duck with beetroot and sauce civet. We're not huge beetroot fans - but the duck was astonishing. Looks beautiful but it's that lavender, cumin, coriander, and Sichuan peppercorns crispy coating on the skin that gives the dish star status.

roomAlso for mains - John Dory, poached with porcini ragu, garlic and pine nuts - exquisite presentation, but never at the expense of taste.

How is the menu for vegetarians?

The a la carte has one or two choices per section - with the sole main being his Parsnip Variations dish. As for warm starters, we had the following:

roomAubergine variations with coriander and roasted garlic. Just the sweetest aubergine you'll ever eat. Came with unbilled mint.

Given the rest of the meal, it's definitely worth keeping room for dessert? 

Absolutely. At the time we visited, there wasn't actually a separate dessert menu - you're given the options by your server when you're ready (we'd prefer a written menu, we think). Here's what we had:

roomMilk and Honey soft serve - a classic from Eleven Madison Park that's being continually reinvented. This is the must-have. 

roomChocolate coconut tart.- looks like all that chocolate would kill you at the end of a big meal, but it's incredibly light. 

roomApple cider doughnuts - delicate for a doughnut and stuffed with a rich apple/cire filling. 

Anything else?

If you haven't ordered the tasting menu, you'll occasionally see what looks like a large balloon coming out of the kitchen from time to time. That's the celeriac - served in a huge inflated pig's bladder, braised with black truffle. It's another classic dish from 11 Madison Park.   

What about drinks?

Obviously, you're going to want to start with one of the excellent cocktails (see above). As far as the wine list goes, for such a high-end and hotly anticipated restaurant, the huge wine list does have a few bottles at the entry-level price of £35, so if you're economising, you can do well here. And if you want to explore different options, carafes start at £19 (2017 Chateau Tour de Gendres Semillon) reaching £105 for a carafe of 2010 Clos des Papes Grenache blanc. As you'd expect from a chef who's big in the States, the American wines are worth taking note of too. The 2018 Massican, Annia Tocai Friulano from Napa Valley (£51 for a carafe) is well worth a look. 

Overall thoughts

All eyes are on Davies and Brook as being one of (if not the) biggest openings of 2019. Bringing a world-class chef into this space means that expectations were absolutely sky high - but we think that Davies and Brook has ended 2019 with a bang. Truly excellent food is combined with a cleverly reinvented space.  A little colour in the room wouldn't go amiss but the bar works really well, not to mention serving excellent cocktails. Returning to the hotel after more than 25 years years, Daniel Humm has come home in style. Claridge's has another winner here - very highly recommended.  

Hot Dinners ate as guests of Davies & Brook. Prices are correct at the time of writing.  

 

More about Davies and Brook at Claridge's

Where is it? Brook Street, Mayfair, London W1K 4HR

How to book: book online

Find out more: Visit their website or follow them on Instagram @daviesandbrook.

 

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