Tom Parker Bowles & Olly Smith: Legendary Mayfair haunt, Langan’s, and rich white wines

A legendary Mayfair haunt has been reborn. Tom visits the new Langan’s and gives his verdict.

Some restaurants are scented with garlic, others fragrant with the smell of sizzling beef. But at Langan’s, the place just reeks of cash. Because this much-loved Mayfair old timer, once ruled over by the legendary (and legendarily well oiled) Peter Langan, has had a facelift. One that doesn’t just involve the odd nip and tuck. Rather a few hundred litres of liquid lucre, pumped direct into its flabby old veins.

Langan's
The lavish bar at Langan’s: ‘The place just reeks of cash,’ says Tom

In a lavish downstairs room almost entirely populated by besuited males, white tablecloths are thicker than an America’s Cup sail, while vast napkins are artfully embroidered with Langan’s sprawling signature. Staff are clad in immaculate outfits, banquettes covered in a marine green velvet the colour of Soneva Fushi sea, and cutlery is heavy enough to fight off any corporate raider.

Service is easily the best thing about our lunch, swift, smiling and not overly intrusive. The wine list, though, is precipitously priced, just like the food itself. I know this is Mayfair, where punters panic if prices are too low. But over £100 for a roast chicken for two and £24 for roasted cauliflower seems excessive, even for the hungriest of hedgies. And it’s not like the cooking even justifies these prices. OK, so French fries are decent, as are roasted brussels sprouts. My Veal Viennoise is fine too, a sort of gussied-up Wiener Schnitzel, using fillet, cooked pink, coated in crisp panko breadcrumbs. But at nearly £50, it’s pure edible affront. The version at The Wolseley is better, and nearly half the price.

There’s a strange salad involving half a small lobster (a cheaper Canadian import, I’d say), properly cooked but with aggressively sharp florets of pickled cauliflower that seem to have escaped from another dish.

Worst of all is dressed crab on toast, which resembles cold cat sick. It’s way too heavy on the dill, a bully of a herb, and not even properly picked. We pull shards of shell and cartilage from the dull meat. At the bottom of this icy mess sits a soggy disc of toast. It’s so goppingly awful that one bite is enough. At least they have the grace to take it off the bill. The whole place is slick but sad, all swagger and no soul. The room’s all right, but the food’s a bore. Not so much the rebirth of a legend, as a damp, dreary squib.

About £75 per head. Langan’s, Stratton Street, London W1; langansbrasserie.com

DRINKS: Olly’s rich white wines

Richness in whites often comes from soaking in oak barrels to boost texture and depth. But some grapes such as Gewurztraminer from Alsace have massive concentration – in this case, a lychee the size of the moon. Pinot Gris is another good example, with mellow opulence perfect for spicy takeaways. Picking whites from warmer climates, especially in the southern hemisphere, is another great shortcut to big fruity vino. These are spot-on for our months of moody weather, to sip paired with creamy dishes, roast pork or just a bowl of luxury nibbles on the sofa.

LOIMER MANHART

WINE OF THE WEEK: LOIMER MANHART 2018 (12.5%), from £14.99, Majestic. Savoury Austrian blend with comet-like brightness. Incredible with salty cheddar.

FOUND GRENACHE BLANC

FOUND GRENACHE BLANC 2021 (14%), £8, M&S. Joyful as an operatic apple in full song – wait for the secret spice on the finish. A big apéritif.

TASTE THE DIFFERENCE NEW ZEALAND PINOT GRIS

TASTE THE DIFFERENCE NEW ZEALAND PINOT GRIS 2020 (13%), £9, Sainsbury’s. Luxuriant texture with fleshy pear-fresh fruitiness. Perfect with spicy dishes.

BIRD IN HAND TWO IN THE BUSH CHARDONNAY

BIRD IN HAND TWO IN THE BUSH CHARDONNAY 2020 (12.5%), £14, Tesco. Aussie excellence that tastes like a mini-Meursault. Exceptional quality for the cash.

THE SOCIETY’S EXHIBITION ALSACE GEWURZTRAMINER

THE SOCIETY’S EXHIBITION ALSACE GEWURZTRAMINER 2017 (14%), £15.50, The Wine Society. Rich as Turkish delight and enthralling as marmalade dreams. Pour with a Chinese takeaway.