So much has changed in the past two weeks, let alone the past two years. It made me want to go to a place so far from my reality that it stopped me dead. I want to exclaim: where am I? Who am I? What is this place? It’s not my beautiful house, it’s not my beautiful wife!
I digress… I want pure and simple escapism. I didn’t expect to find it within the hallowed walls of The Twenty Two at Mayfair. A stone’s throw from the ugly crowds of Oxford Street, the Twenty Two Hotel is a stylish affair – also, perhaps unsurprisingly, a stylish place to have a bargain, although that’s not what appeals to me. brought here. His restaurant, run by former Picture crew Alan Christie and Colin Kelly, is much the same.
The chefs’ reunion comes as a pleasant surprise to fans of Picture, which had two establishments in Marylebone and Fitzrovia before the two suddenly closed in 2019 for “many annoying reasons”. But, through The Twenty Two, they promise to bring a ‘Mediterranean flourish to modern British cuisine’.
What does it look like? Ingredients like octopus (in croquette form), artichokes (the kind of crunchy salad with green beans), and Portobello mushrooms (with grilled polenta and slow-cooked kale) feature prominently on the menu. It’s also peppered with classic French cuisine, with dishes such as tuna niçoise salad, lobster Thermidor and Dover sole meunière evoking memories of an ’80s diner. Surprisingly, no prawn cocktail, but this might be too artificial.
It’s the interior of The Twenty Two, however, that really takes me to another world. As I exit the busy street, a silence falls and I can’t help but marvel at the grandeur of the restaurant; all sky blue walls and mustard velvet armchairs, dim lighting and soft floors, fringed lamps and pretentious bouquets of flowers. An ornate gilt mirror takes pride of place in the main dining room, but it’s easy to sneak into a dark corner to conduct (ahem) business, or just trade gossip and secrets over truly fantastic cocktails.
This is how my dining partner and I start our evening. No, not having an affair, but chatting in the corner until the waiter gently burst our bubble to lead us to a table near the golden mirror. It’s the best seat in the house – offering a panoramic view of the room so we can watch other (more) glamorous diners come and go. For an evening, we can pretend to be buzzing London socialites, giggling over our glasses of champagne.
Our meal begins with seasonal asparagus and hollandaise sauce, grilled prawns with seaweed butter – both delicious – and polenta crisps. The problem with polenta chips is that they never taste as good as I’d hope: too big and hot to eat right away, too dry and boring when cooled. I would skip them next time in favor of the Devonshire crab salad or the tuna tartare with fennel, radish and green chilli.
I opt for the sirloin steak – my partner is a pescetarian, so I eat little meat at home; it makes it easier to reduce the meat, but I’ll allow it on this getaway night. The only problem is that they gave me a butter knife to work with. Everything had been pretty much flawless so far. This misstep snaps me out of my reverie, like a bug in the simulation. But it does not matter. After sawing with little success, I ask for a steak knife and one quickly appears in front of me.
It’s strange how such a small and insignificant thing can stick in the mind, but they are small potatoes in the grand scheme of things. The rest of the evening at Twenty Two is a delight, and the staff are particularly wonderful. Attentive and friendly, they provide a more modern experience in what could be a much stuffier place, and the restaurant is better for it. I have to say: the vibes are immaculate.
22 Grosvenor Square, Mayfair, London, W1K 6LF | 020 3988 5022 | the22.london