“ Address: The Berkeley / Wilton Place / Knightsbridge / London SW1X 7RL / England „
As a surprise my boyfriend booked a table at Boxwood Café in March. He made the table three weeks in advance and got the last table for 8.30pm. Apparently f you don't book quite far in advance then you will find that the times a table is available is quite limited and you will be offered reservation for after 10pm.
The place is very easy to find and less than a five minute walk from Knightsbridge tube station. On arrival you will be offered to take a seat in the bar area for a drink. Staff were very friendly and not intimidating or rude like some reviews had suggested. I would recommend trying one of the cocktails. They are £10 each but worth it.
We arrived at 8.15pm and shown to our table at 8.40pm. Ordered off the six courses special Gordon Ramsey set menu which was £65 per person. The portion sizes were quite small but for six courses decent. Even my boyfriend was full after and he has a big appetitive. I really enjoyed the fish course which was smoked salmon but my favourite was the steak and parmesan mash. All of the food is of the highest quality but simple.
Service is very efficient, what surprised me was that we didn't leave til 11.30pm however the food seemed to be served so quickly (without feeling rushed) I thought we had been in there about 2 hours.
For two people the bill came to £187 which included the six course set menu, pre dinner cocktails, a bottle of wine, a bottle of sparkling water and a service charge. It may seem expensive to some but the food and the whole experience was totally worth it and you get what you pay for.
I really can't fault the place and loved it.... dropping plenty of hints to go back there.
I went to the Boxwood Cafe with a friend for my birthday lunch last Saturday.
We had decided to go to London for the day as we had tickets to see Wicked - more on that in another review! - and so picked the Boxwood as somewhere quite near, and because it had a really good price of £25 for the set lunch menu. The Head Chef here is Stuart Gillies, who you may have seen on various TV programmes including Great british Menu, I think.
My friend dealt with the booking but I understand she did it online or by email with no problems, and they also sent me an email Invitation - which was quite good. There must have been a way to add the emails of people you were dining with. Apparently, they also called the day before to check we were still ok for lunch.
We had a 12 noon booking and had been asked to arrive a little earlier than that.
The restaurant was only a few minutes walk from both Knightsbridge and Hyde Park tube stations and although the address is Wilton Place it is actually on the main road Knightsbridge itself.
On arrival we were greeted at the reception and coats taken. We were told that they needed the table back by 2, which was fine as we were going to the 2.30 matinee at the theatre. It was about 11.45 when we arrived and since we had been asked to come early, it was slightly odd that we were told the restaurant is not actually open yet but you can come through to the bar. This was said almost in a way that suggested the receptionist was doing us a favour by letting us in the bar. Why say that? Bizarrely, the restaurant and the bar are the same room anyway, so why not just say "Your table will be ready at 12, would you like to come through to the bar and have a drink? "
Anyway, on going through to the bar, which is actually just a small space above the restaurant we took a seat. The decor is brown trellis type wood, green leather seats and some nice plants, including lots of photos of boxwood hedges. The drinks menus were on the table and were actually a little tatty looking, being just brown card. We could see down into the restaurant and everyone getting ready for service.
We ordered a Framboise Royale and a Bellini. They have quite a nice selection of cocktails. Both drinks were fine but a fairly extortionate £10.50 each - still it is central London.
After a little while we were shown down some steps to our table, which was a small table for 2 near a pillar. It was fine and gave some privacy but I like to people watch and couldn't see a great deal of the rest of the restaurant.
We were brought menus and offered still or sparkling water which we declined. I did hear people at the next table ordering tap water, which was brought in a jug so there is no issue there. I love the way asking for tap water used to be considered skinflint but we can now all legitimately ask for it because we want to save resources and the planet! I do think it should be offered though, and expensive bottled water should not be pushed.
We ordered from the set lunch menu at £25 for 3 courses or £21 for 2 - the a la carte was available but a little more pricey. Menus can be found here
We were brought warm bread, white and granary rolls that had clearly just been baked, with salted butter and a delicate taramsalata dip. Very tasty. We were offered more bread a couple of times although we declined, which was a nice touch.
We were then brought an amuse bouche - basically a free mini starter for those who don't know. This was white onion veloute with rosmeary croutons, served in a little espresso cup. This was very tasty with a wonderfully smooth texture and a creamy yet pronounced white onion taste.
We both had wild mushrooms on toast with a hen's egg and garlic butter - which was basically posh fried egg and mushrooms on toast. It was delicious though - although the toast could have been slightly crispier, but the dish had a lovely buttery garlic flavour to it and the egg was cooked to perfection with the yolk oozing when you cut into it. The flavours complemented rather than overwhlming the wild mushrooms which were quite delicate.
We then had Hangar Steak (which when I checked later I found out is the cut of steak) with a pepper sauce and spring onion mashed potato. This was fabulous. We were told it came medium rare and my friend asked for hers to be done medium. We got several really tasty chucks of perfectly cooked steak with a seared and caramelised outside and melting in the middle. It is a different texture than say a sirloin, but it had an excellent flavour. The sauce that came with it was a rich spicy gravy, not your typical sauce au poivre, and this was a real highlight, with just enough pepper to make the sauce interesting. The mash was nice too. My only bugbear is why not put some vegetables on as well. I shouldn't have to order them separately (which we didn't) - you are the chef, you know what would go with it, and a carrot or somesuch is not exactly going to bankrupt the Ramsay empire is it??
Incidentally, we had a bottle of Rose Sancerre with the meal which was a little expensive at £32 but there were cheaper options, around the £22 mark. Obviously there were wines at 10 and 20 times that price too, but we stayed well clear! The waiters were very good at filling glasses at an appropriate time in an unobtrusive manner. We were never without a glass and yet still managed to make the bottle last through the meal.
We then debated on dessert and decided to share a dessert from the set menu and then share cheese. This decision was met with no problem at all and we were brought 2 sets of cutlery.
We had a delicious roasted apple and caramel ice cream with crumbled almond biscuits. This was exceptional. The ice cream was sweet yet had whole chunks of roast apple in it which added body and texture.
We then were brought a plate with 5 different cheeses , walnuts and apple slices on it and a basket of bought and hand made crackers and breads. (note this cost £10 but was more than enough for the 2 of us) I was a little disappointed with this as we could see a cheese trolley and thought it may have been brought over for us to select from but none the less the cheeses were very nice. I did have to ask someone to explain what they were. I like to know what I am eating and where it was from and a nice young waiter sent the more senior waitress over to tell us. They did all seem to be British which was nice and there was a good variety, from a strong Cheddar, to a goats cheese and some Shropshire Blue. We decided we would then have some dessert wine with this and requested this, which was brought. We were not offered a choice, but I am always happy to leave it to the person who knows, and we were brought a chilled sweet red, which could have been a port or a wine - who knows!
Overall then we ended up paying £143 for 2 for lunch including tip of 12.5% I think. We did however spend £71 of that on champagne cocktails, wine and dessert wine! The food prices at lunch are therefore really good - and £25 for 3 course from the set menu is a bargain.
The staff were very good, but I expected nothing less. We were trying to work out the hierarchy,. There were 2 or 3 men in suits who appeared to be Maitre'd or Head Sommelier. One did come over at one point and asked if everything was ok and my friend spotted that he had been to very table at least once. There are then people who take your order, and then people who bring the food, people who top your wine up and prople who clear plates and brush crumbs off the table. We were served very efficiently and politely and the servie is generally unobtrusive yet aware. We were not kept waiting at any point, and although we knew they wanted the table back, we did not feel rushed.
My only negatives are the lack of vegetables with the mains, I don't think restaurants of this calibre should charge for veg separately. I think when we requested dessert wine someone should have come over to check what we wanted (although what we got was fine) and when our cheese was brought someone should have told us there and then what the cheese were, we shouldn't have had to ask.
The decor, although pleasant, was showing signs of age and wear, such as scuffed wood and marks on the walls, it does need a little tidy up and refreshing in my opinion
I would go again, but I would try other restaurants first. For example, you can go to Marcus Wareing's restaurant for a set lunch for £35, so that will probably be my next port of call.
Perhaps I shouldn't be starting the review by saying that this isn't actually the restaurant I'd wanted to visit.... With a special occasion to celebrate and a night in London to find dinner for, Mr Cheetarah and I needed no more of an excuse to find a great restaurant in which to treat ourselves. Confession time I suppose: I'd had my heart set on going to Petrus only to discover that they weren't open on Sundays. So, plan B then: Boxwood Café.
Me being me (i.e. very organised) these decisions were being made two months in advance of our trip. As soon as we'd settled on the restaurant, I sent them an email enquiring about availability for the required date. I received a reply within 24 hours giving me several choices of dining times between 6pm and 9pm. As we were due for an early start on the Monday morning we selected the 6.30 reservation. Our contact telephone number was taken in order that the reservation could be confirmed the day before.
Boxwood Café is part of the Gordon Ramsay Holdings group of restaurants. It is located within The Berkeley Hotel in Knightsbridge and since its opening in 2003, Stuart Gillies has been the head chef.
The website describes it as "an oasis to unwind from the action of Knightsbridge" - very apt as it's ideally located for after a shopping spree. The official address is Wilton Place, which is actually slightly confusing - the main entrance to The Berkeley Hotel is on Wilton Place, and after a few minutes of wandering around without spotting Boxwood Café we had to ask the doorman for directions. It turned out that the restaurant entrance is actually on Knightsbridge Green - if you are coming to the restaurant from Mayfair then you would pass the entrance, but because we had come from the Knightsbridge end (and that aforementioned shopping action!) we didn't pass the entrance and turned into Wilton Place.
So after two months (and many perusals of the online menu), and that slight detour, we finally found ourselves outside Boxwood Café, expectant and hungry!
We were greeted by the friendly receptionist who took our coats, and then led to our table by the Maitre d' and introduced to our waiter for the evening, Steffen. Our aperitif order was taken so we had refreshment while contemplating the menus. Steffen explained we could choose either the six course Taste of Boxwood menu or make our own selection from the a la carte menu. Initially our plan was to go for the tasting menu, but when Steffen described the day's specials, we opted for a la carte instead.
After our order had been taken, Steffen returned with a bread basket and a jug of iced water (neither Mr Cheetarah or myself were going to be drinking wine). The bread basket was the sign of great things to come with a selection of ciabatta and granary rolls, accompanied by butter and taramosalata.
We took this break in proceedings to examine our surroundings a bit more. The restaurant is essentially in the basement of the hotel, so from the reception you go down a few steps to the first level of the restaurant, a few more take you into the lounge bar area, and a few more take you into the main restaurant area, and it was towards the back of this that we were seated. The well-spaced tables provided a variety of seating arrangements to accommodate from 2 up to 10 people. Some of the tables near the walls had sofa style seats (nice for more intimate dining), while the remaining tables had comfortable looking traditional dining chairs. Boxwood Café also has two private dining rooms - the smaller one (seating 5) is located off the reception, and the larger (seating 16) off the main restaurant area.
Clever use of discreet lighting means the fact that there are so few windows isn't a problem. You are able to see your food (always important!) but don't feel you're being bathed in glaring artificial light. The restaurant has gone for a fairly natural palette for its décor: dark wood, neutral walls, eau de nil accents, unobtrusive art. It makes for a calm and serene environment enhancing the overall dining experience.
Finally, the main event: the food.
For our starters we had ceviche of organic salmon and crab with chilli, lime, coriander and grapefruit (Mr Cheetarah) and foie gras parfait with smoked duck and tea jelly and toasted brioche (me).
The ceviche was unusual in that it was marinated in grapefruit rather than the more traditional lemon or lime. The quality of the salmon shone through here, being melt-in-the mouth, and was complemented beautifully by the slight sweetness of the crab and freshness of the citrus (of course I had to taste this for research purposes!).
The parfait was presented in an oval ramekin, covered by a layer of tea jelly which was studded with small flakes of smoked duck, served with half a small brioche which had been griddled. The proportions here were perfect with just enough brioche for the parfait. The fragrant jelly was a revelation and was a perfect foil for the richness of the parfait.
For our main course we both opted for one of the day's specials: roast fillet of sea bass with clams, mussels, leeks and chorizo. This was served with a small bowl of roasted new potatoes. The sea bass was perfectly cooked and was served on a bed of finely shredded leek which had been sautéed with small cubes of chorizo, chopped clams, and mussels, and surrounded by an intense seafood sauce. I was pleasantly surprised by the size of the main course; I know there is sometimes the thought that in some restaurants a higher price equates to less food on the plate. While I am a firm believer in quality over quantity, we found that the portions at Boxwood were of a generous enough size to give a nicely balanced three course meal.
Desserts were warm heritage apple caramel tart with vanilla ice cream (Mr Cheetarah) and marinated pineapple and passion fruit with a mango and Campari sorbet (me).
The tart was similar to a tart tatin, which at approximately 5" in diameter proved just a little too big for him to finish. Again I snuck a taste of this and the gorgeously smooth home-made vanilla ice cream, rich caramel sauce and juicy apples were a match made in heaven.
My dessert was the perfect refreshing finish after the richness of the previous two courses - very thinly sliced pineapple marinated in passion fruit and vanilla sugar syrup, served with a scoop of intensely flavoured sorbet (they didn't skimp on the Campari!).
A wonderful touch to the dessert plates was the "Happy Anniversary" piped around the edge in dark chocolate. I had mentioned in a throwaway comment when booking that this was part of our anniversary celebration - obviously Boxwood Café prides itself on this sort of detail and it was a nice surprise when our waiter arrived with the decorated plates, accompanied by the Maitre d' to pass on congratulations on behalf of the restaurant.
Following dessert, we relaxed with coffee (Mr Cheetarah), sherry (me) and petit fours. We were aware that there was to be a later sitting in the restaurant, but at no point did we feel rushed through our meal, or when lingering afterwards. Throughout the course of the evening, Steffen proved to be an attentive yet unobtrusive waiter, with good knowledge of the restaurant menu.
At last the time had come to settle the bill - the two meals, plus coffee, sherry, a kir royale, and two glasses of lemonade came to £122 (inclusive of 12.5% service charge). Considering the quality of the food, the level of service, and the occasion, we were more than satisfied with the bill.
I would wholeheartedly recommend a visit to Boxwood Café if you're looking for somewhere special that serves wonderful food, without being too formal. We're already planning to go for lunch when we're back in London next year.
Address : Boxwood Café, The Berkeley, Wilton Place, Knightsbridge, London, SW1X 7RL
Telephone: 020 7235 1010
Fax: 020 7235 1011
A la carte dinner menu:
Starters £8.50 - £16.00
Mains £16.00 - £31.00
Vegetarian options £6.50 - £16.00
Desserts £7.00 - £10.00
The six-course tasting menu is priced at £55.00 per person
A three-course set lunch menu is also available for £28.00
We visited in May 2008.
Up-to-date sample menus are available on the website, together with booking information and current opening hours
Petrus as it was in May 2008 (with Marcus Wareing as head chef) no longer exists: Gordon Ramsay's website states that "Petrus will be relocating to a new location in the early part of 2009".
Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley has now opened in its place.
Eloquent dining atmosphere with exquisite dishes.