Royal Festival Hall's New Restaurant Has Wes Anderson Charm... The Food Could Do With More Spark
Something rings familiar about the Royal Festival Hall's Spiritland — the latest branch of mid-century-style restaurant/bars designed for artsy music lovers. The neat symmetry of the 1970s Japan recording studio walls, and curved ox blood banquettes? The plinky music with 6 Music written all over it? The ineffably cordial staff, who pop up at your table with huge grins on their faces? This is like eating on a Wes Anderson set. (As chance would have it, Jarvis Cocker, who soundtracked Anderson's Fantastic Mr Fox, is DJing at the launch party here the following evening.)
You'd expect an unorthodox menu to go with the mise en scene, and the sweet and sour pork belly, cooked to a tee, strangled by octopus tentacles and sprinkled with cubes of pomello, fits the bill. So too does the pudding — an unctuous dulce de leche pocked with passionfruit, meringue and topped out with spiced popcorn — although it's pushing its quirky luck. The sheer number of competing textures and flavours constitute something of a sickly pile-up.
Our kooky starter and dessert flank a main course that's less Bill Murray, more Bill Gates. Both the steak and the lamb rump are tasty, solid, English fare (though the beef comes slightly overcooked). And there's nowt wrong with that. But seeing as the meat alone will set you back a fair whack (sides and sauces are extra), you might hope for more mouth fireworks. The skin-on new potatoes come with a rustic, semi-roasted charm — but again, feel, dare we say, basic. A few chillies on the broccoli, along with an extremely bitter chimichurri, fail to light the taper.
Spiritland is one stylish hangout, and a welcome change to more ubiquitous chains on the river side of the Royal Festival Hall. But for us at least, the cocktails are the highlight. Actually, we're pretty sure the Bees Knees (a chilled toddy of gin, rosemary, honey and lemon) cured our companion's cold. Next time we come here, it'll be for a drink. Especially if Jarvis is DJing.
Spiritland, Royal Festival Hall, Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX
Last Updated 19 February 2019