WLC’s resident epicure, Lucy Shaw, heads to Nathan Outlaw’s new seafood restaurant at The Goring for zesty scallops, sensational sole and a chance encounter with John Major.
The concept: In Greek Mythology, Sirens were dangerous bird-like creatures who would lure passing sailors to their death with their enchanting voices. Luckily I was far from water during my visit to seafood sorcerer Nathan Outlaw’s new restaurant at The Goring, though with the mercury rising high into the 30s, an ocean dip would have been most welcome.
Siren is royal favourite The Goring’s first new restaurant in 109 years, and a welcome addition to the Belgravia haunt opened by Otto Goring in 1910. Inspired by the Goring family’s ties to Cornwall, Siren is a casual little sister to The Dining Room, which has held a Michelin star since 2016. While Outlaw is in charge of the menu, head chef Andrew ‘Ginger’ Sawyer handles the day-to-day steering of the ship.
The last time I visited The Goring, at a summer party many moons ago, Margaret Thatcher was working the exquisitely manicured lawn in an electric blue dress. This time around, with Boris Johnson having been named prime minister just hours before, I was sat at a table next to John Major, who was entertaining a group of Americans. If The Goring was cut it would bleed blue.
The décor: Both Siren and the newly refurbished Goring Bar have been given a lavish £4m makeover by designers du jour, Russell Sage studios. Filled with floor-to-ceiling windows, the light, bright restaurant gives the impression of dining in a conservatory.
Bringing the outside in, the quaint 36-cover space, which overlooks the hotel’s croquet ready garden, is filled with foliage, while the sumptuous velvet chairs boast floral patterns.
Glass lobsters cling to cages suspended from the ceiling in a hat tip to Outlaw’s seafood focus. A fiery oil painting of a lava-like landscape does little to cool me down on this most tropical of English evenings.
The bar boasts the more knockout interiors with its sumptuously swagged curtains, velvet chaise longues, grand piano and impressive plasterwork on the walls of Botticelli-esque mermaids, muscly mermen and giant fish.
The food: A celebration of the sea, Outlaw’s menu reads like a poem to Cornwall and the treasures dragged up from its turquoise waters each day. Simple rather than showy, the dishes make a hero of the raw ingredients, presenting them beautifully without fuss, foams or frippery.
Given The Goring’s English roots, many of the dishes play on the nostalgic flavours of the English seaside in summer, from the decadent clotted cream sauce that accompanies the dover sole, to the sweet glistening strawberries piled high like rubies atop the pastry tart.
Others, like the fisherman’s stew and the baked scallops with rosemary and orange butter, have a more Mediterranean feel. Served in their shell, the scallops were astutely cooked, their sweet silky centres iridescent and pearl-like.
A generous coating of breadcrumbs added texture and crunch, while the zesty tang of the orange butter took me to Seville.
Signature dishes: Bypassing some of the heavier starters due to the searing heat, including a tempting Cornish crab risotto, my cured monkfish, ginger, fennel and yoghurt entrée (£16) proved the ideal start to the meal. A celebration of freshness, there was beauty in the simplicity of the clean, green flavours.
Going head-to-head with Tom Kerridge’s oft Instagrammed offering at The Corinthia, Outlaw has included his own pimped up version of fish and chips on the menu at Siren. Only without the chips. Bowls of crispy potatoes slathered in garlic and parsley can be ordered as a side dish.
Setting itself apart, Outlaw’s golden hunk of battered turbot is served swimming in a pool of warm tartare sauce flecked with capers and dill. We’ll have to return to report back on the flavour, as my head was turned by the prospect of a 21oz dover sole served with cockles, clams, samphire, crispy sage and a clotted cream sauce (£56).
Big enough to feed a small family, its flesh glistened as if brushed with butter. Like the scallops, the cooking was expertly timed, moist swan white flecks falling off the bone and becoming all the most magnificent when dipped in the toffee-coloured pool of clotted cream sauce, which was at once unashamedly indulgent and surprisingly light on its feet. I only wish I had room for more.
The drinks: It’s worth swinging by the bar before dinner for an apéritif. We felt for the bar staff during our visit, who were sporting fantastically flamboyant olive green velvet jackets pinned with peacock feathers that were better suited to winter walks through the Scotland Highlands than scorching evenings in central London.
Like Outlaw’s food offering, the drinks list, devised by bar manager Tiago Mira, shines a light on English ingredients via cocktails like the Rosehip Royal, made with Pimm’s No.6 Cup, Sacred Rosehip Cup, Champagne, and a summer ‘sherbet’ made from strawberries, cucumber and mint.
I deviated from the English script with my smoky and sour twist on a Margarita (£18) featuring lemon verbena, lemon balm, a cider reduction, sage foam and hibiscus. At the restaurant, the by the glass offering is small and rather pricey – a glass of Krug Grande Cuvée will set you back £59.
More interesting perhaps is the hotel’s own Brut Majeur cuvée, made in partnership with Ayala, which costs a more modest £20 a glass.
Of the whites, a golden glass of Hamilton Russell 2018 Chardonnay (£18) charmed with notes of lemon curd, pear, apple and lime, and helped cut through the richness of the clotted cream sauce in the dover sole dish.
Who to know: Restaurant manager Sean Cooper has an impressive pedigree, arriving at The Goring by way of The Ledbury and The Clove Club. His easy charm and affable nature proves service needn’t be stuffy, even in the most traditional of surroundings.
Don’t leave without: Asking for a tour of the herb garden. Created by Jekka McVicar, vice president of the Royal Horticultural Society, flanking The Goring’s gorgeous lawn are hundreds of herbs that Outlaw uses to great effect in his dishes, from fragrant sage and rousing rosemary to cinnamon basil. The garden closes at 9pm, but we were lucky enough to be given a torchlit tour after hours.
Last word: Nathan Outlaw isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel at Siren. Instead, he’s confident enough to keep things simple, championing impeccably sourced, sensitively cooked, elegantly presented seafood.
While a certain swath of the London foodie scene may leave underwhelmed by Outlaw’s lack of theatrical flourishes or Instagram-worthy plates, seasoned epicures will appreciate its understated elegance.
Siren at The Goring, 15 Beeston Place, London SW1W 0JW; Tel: +44 (0)20 7396 9000