The Wolseley

160 Piccadilly
London W1J 9EB
+44 (0) 20 7499 6996

The Wolseley is owned and run by the same people behind the ever-popular and fashionable Caprice, and as one would expect is another busy and successful venture. The cuisine is of a high standard, the wine list extensive and the service efficient. Booking in advance is essential.


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4.0 out of 5.0

Based on 9 reviews

  • Price: £££
  • Neighbourhood: Mayfair
  • Type: European
  • Keywords: air conditioning, bar, vegetarian dishes, european, tea, brunch, Euro-cafe style, high standards, great for lunch, delicious food, gourmet, breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, class, style, old fashioned, Mayfair, posh, cuisine: french
  • Nearest Transport: Green Park (0.06 mi), Piccadilly Circus (0.3 mi), Bond Street (0.49 mi)
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April 07, 2009

I was horribly disappointed by "tea at the Wolseley". I was expecting a quiet, elegant setting - I found a large, noisy, ugly room. Our table was right beside the door which led downstairs to the toilets so it was like being in the middle of Piccadilly Circus in rush hour. We could not hear each other speak from the noise. First the waitress forgot to bring the tea, then she brought the wrong one. The tea pot was so small that we only managed to squeeze one small cup each and when we asked for more we were given a dirty look and eventually someone brought over some lukewarm water and poured it into the teapot. Never again, a ghastly experience for which we paid through the nose.

Vote: Useful (2) Not Useful (0)

March 26, 2009

Surly French waitstaff meets Franco-English haute cuisine for a surreal dining experience.

The wine is tasty - although the wine list isn't as extensive as you would expect in such an establishment. The waitstaff - nearly entirely French the night we went - is authentic and professional.

The food is quite good. But, you don't go to a place like the Wolseley for the food, not really. The desserts are incredible. Truly the best I've ever eaten (the passion fruit mousse and the tarte au citron are particularly amazing).

The setting is spectacular. And even the toilets are incredible. You know how you hate to flush the toilet with your hand? Well, in the Wolseley, the toilets flush with a foot pedal built into the wall. The ladies toilet has a magnifying mirror for touching up your makeup. The coat check is prompt and courteous and photography is prohibited to protect diners' privacy.

Keywords: posh, cuisine: french, surreal

Vote: Useful (3) Not Useful (0)

February 08, 2009

This place kicks the traditional arse out of any other I've eaten in - and for many reasons.

I'm an old fashioned girl at heart and the good old British pomp and posture goes a long way - if done without the snooty noses. And, that's just what happened at The Wolesley.

I took my ex-husband here for his birthday, booked well in advance, of course, and having saved the pennies for this special day. We arrived ten minutes early and had to wait a mere five minutes at the door whilst someone took our coats. The 'host' at the door sparked up a conversation with us in the mean time, and was genuinely interested in what we had to say and laughed and joked with us.

Once seated, the waiter was just as courteous as the 'host' and joked with us whilst we ordered champagne and perused the menu. Despite it being a very busy Saturday night and run off their feet, they had all the time in the world for us and were very patient and helpful. I always secretly like it, too, when the waiter can reel off the day's specials, without speaking too quickly or without you having to ask any questions about it - which means they know how to do their job! Which is exactly what happened here.

The food arrived; mushrooms for starters and for main I ordered my signature: steak, and I don't think I've tasted a better sirloin yet. When we had finished, there were more jokes to be shared, and by the time we'd reached the door our coats were already there waiting for us. We even saw a couple of celebrities too!

For two courses, a grand evening, champagne, fantastic food and service, and a night in one of London's most cherished and regal restaurants, I don't think 88 pounds was much to smirk at.

Will definitely be returning here for more intimate meals with close friends (though, I think taking a large group of people might be pushing it).

Keywords: Class, style, old fashioned, Mayfair, non-casual

Vote: Useful (3) Not Useful (0)

January 09, 2009

RUMOUR HAS it that ‘The Wolseley’ turns over £10million a year. A few days ago I swapped £20 for breakfast. It takes that every minute. On the matter of money, this site spent 70 years as a Barclays, although it is better known for how it started - as a showroom for Wolseley cars. The upmarket British marque was founded, fin de siècle, by Herbert Austin, then manager of the Wolseley sheep shearing company. Where there’s wool, there’s a way (and here, a golden fleeced flock too).

The sharp design details of the original 1920’s commission still make a grand impression: chandeliers, chinoiserie and symmetrical brass staircases. Propped by dark, doric columns, the vaulted ceiling rises 30ft. The floor is a bold stracciatella marble web. This is a temple with tables: Venetian, Florentine and Viennese all at once, nipped, tucked and preened by the same designers who redefined nearby ‘Fortnum & Mason’. One of the first things I saw (or smelt) was the altar of homemade pastries, a celebration of saucy sounding ‘Viennoisserie’.

The minds behind are Jeremy Corbin and Chris King, the restaurateur double-act best known for rejuvenating ‘Le Caprice’ and ‘The Ivy’, amongst other hot spots designated safe for celebrities. When The Wolseley opened in ‘03, The Ivy’s imported doorman was the face greeting the glitterati…

The open plan seating encourages that curious sport of ‘see and be seen’. Our almost miniature, irritatingly low table was unfortunately sited, however. Being opposite the busy bar dispense, I was forced to follow the staff’s albeit intriguing complaints about a bad tempered customer. They are a diverse looking bunch, by the way, but broadly happy. Waitresses, from svelte to bulging at the belt, wear air hostess style cravats; supervisors are shoehorned into tight (and very tight) suits. Whilst most zigzag like pinballs, service can be sloppy: you, like I, may need to prompt for forgotten orders.

I doubt many make the pilgrimage for the plates. Despite the location’s link with tyres, The Wolseley will never turn the head of the homme Michelin. It seems that the stars shun stars, preferring comforting food rather then culinary couture. The sartorial equivalent of the menu (Salt Beef Sandwich, Leeks Vinaigrette) could be a tastefully worn, Saville suit (patched at the elbows). It might be worth pointing out that I once cancelled a booking at another Corbin and King venture, ‘St. Alban’ (Regent St.). I didn’t know the pedigree of the proprietors, and dare I say it, the menu looked dull at face value.

I cannot resent pastries. My tall, beeswax flavoured Cannelé Bordelaise looked like it had been jauntily shaped in a jelly mould. It came straight from the oven with a chewy, chocolate like crust and a centre which suggested dense panettone. Having made no masochistic New Year’s resolutions, I greedily rinsed this with ‘The Wolseley Imperial’ (bitter mandarin peel liqueur, cognac, double espresso, hot milk, chocolate powder layered with whipped cream). It tasted like a luxurious, liquidised Chocolate Orange. I chased this with a shot of fresh, bright, bitty orange juice.

To really set me up for the day I shunned the sordid sounding, lavishly priced Caviar Omelette (£52.50) in favour of a snug dish: Fried Haggis with conjoined Duck Eggs on fried toast. When burst, the large, molten, mustard coloured yokes stickily combined with the haggis. Moistly fatty, peppery, with notes of sweet spice in the finish, the pluck was minced into an earthy softness. A battered, highly burnished silver pot of lean Darjeeling cleansed with its gentle aromas of Muscat grapes. Feminine without that overwhelming aroma of, for example, Earl Grey, which for me is like drinking perfume.

My companion met ‘Arnold Bennett’ for the first time. An opulently creamy, Gruyère softened, smoked haddock studded eggy creation, named in honour of a long-term writer in residence at ‘The Savoy’. How ironic that his eponymous omelette outshines his novels. A transparent pot of what looked like a whole mint plant, including stalks, smelt brisk and brought colour to our table.

I rarely bother with a big breakfast. And half an hour after the fork hit the plate for the final time, I remembered why. Call it another type of morning sickness. As blood hurtled to my stomach to break down the early bombardment of artery addlingly rich food, a kind of fry-provoked nausea begun.

As the large station like clock passed 11:30, I spied the first frosty martini triangle take to a tray. Brightening linen landed on bare tables. Breakfast would become lunch, then tea and dinner until midnight. In excess of 1,000 famous, infamous and anonymous faces fed and watered.

Not content with having crafted several restaurants which are as much household names as their clientele, Corbin and King harbour seriously lofty ambitions. In October it was announced that they would be installing eateries over 13,000 square feet of the city’s unimaginatively titled, 288m tall ‘Pinnacle’ tower (under construction in the city). I prefer its nickname, the ‘Helter Skelter’. There is also speculation about a co-venture in New York with ‘Vanity Fair’ editor, Graydon Carter.

The original autos failed to sell. The Barclays bank transferred its funds elsewhere. But even amidst economic uncertainties, it becomes ever harder to book a space in Corbin and King’s Mayfair embassy of carefully cultivated café society.

Vote: Useful (8) Not Useful (0)

October 07, 2008

When our Muslim best friend got engaged, we couldn't really go to the pub to celebrate could we? So we decided to take her for afternoon tea.

The Wolseley was recommended to me because apparently it is the best value tea in London, and compared to the Ritz, Claridge’s etc it is. But I would agree with Andy M about the ambience, it is pretty bustling and the tables are quite close together – not really want you want for tea. The sandwiches were okay, although the woman did look at me funny when I asked for lemon with my Earl Grey – is that really such an odd request? I probably would pay the extra and go to Claridge’s for tea if I did this again (which I’m sure I will).

I’ve never been to the Wolseley for dinner, but the breakfasts here are pretty sublime. Actually I think whenever anyone cooks breakfast for me it is sublime (boyfriend take note!). It's the breakfast that the 4-circle(!) rating is for - get up early and enjoy it.

Keywords: breakfast, afternoon tea, tea

Vote: Useful (8) Not Useful (0)

October 01, 2008

I was surprised by The Wolseley. We booked an afternoon tea there based on a Time Out list of best places to have tea, but I had no idea how busy and bustling the dining room feels at The Wolseley. It reminded me less of a London tea room and more of a restaurant in Grand Central Terminal in New York.

I actually really liked the ambiance, and, had I come there for a business lunch or even a breakfast, I would have been perfectly happy. But for tea, it really didn't work. Tea should be quiet, subdued, refined, built for long conversations and a leisurely pace. This was the opposite: loud, hectic, rushed, and the waitstaff was harried and not always on the ball. There were about 10 waiters buzzing around behind our table, but none of them seemed to be our waiter. When tea finally came, it came with no milk and a single packet of sugar. The sandwiches and pastries were great, especially the buttery scones, but after they arrived, the waiters scuttled away never to be seen again.

I would come back if only to try their eggs Benedict, which looked awesome. But this is not the place to go for proper tea, at least not in my world.

Keywords: breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea

Vote: Useful (4) Not Useful (0)

April 20, 2008

Harder and harder to get into (at peak times at least), the Wolseley has a great menu, and is surprisingly not as expensive as I expected it to be. The servers are knowledgeable, attentive and pleasant, which is not as easy to come across as it should be in this city. I had the escargot to start and the pheasant as a main (although seasonal, of course) and both were excellent. Highly recommended, close to the Ritz and Green Park tube station.

Keywords: Euro-cafe style, delicious food, gourmet

Vote: Useful (5) Not Useful (0)

March 18, 2008

Why can't every morning start with brunch at the Wolseley? My morning oats at home made me grumpy for a week after my visit.

The Wolseley will never go out of fashion. The room has such a striking visual impact as you enter and the menu is as timeless and elegant as the silver teapots. Service was of course first class and it's an unbeatable weekend location - brunch is the perfect fitness fuel for posh shopping.

Do try the salmon and scrambled eggs, but the best thing is with lovely fruit salads and grapefruits, you really COULD have it every day!

Keywords: Brunch

Vote: Useful (5) Not Useful (0)

August 04, 2007

I recently had the great fortune of being taken to lunch at The Wolseley, and can't think of anywhere better for feeling right in the mix of things `doing lunch` upbeat London-style - somehow all class without any cumbersome pretensions. My endive, Roquefort and walnut salad starter was exactly that: no complicating/ overpowering dressings, no silly names. Room-temp. Roquefort (easy enough to `do` but all too often neglected); fresh crunchy greens and nuts. The Severn and Wye smoked salmon with soda bread which followed would only have been improved by a slightly more generous helping of soda bread - but the salmon was really the point of the dish and had I asked for more bread I am sure it would have been forthcoming without fuss. I liked the water and wine glass refills too - service is always at risk of becoming intrusive if executed without thought, but here it was efficient and friendly without being over-bearing. The only downside to this otherwise excellent experience was being rushed past the dessert menu (at 1.50pm we were told that we were very welcome to order it but that the table muct be cleared by 2pm - a somewhat artificial choice). On the whole, though, I very much enjoyed not just the buzz but the high standards of this very London establishment.

Keywords: Euro-cafe style, high standards, great for lunch

Vote: Useful (5) Not Useful (0)