Lady Barbara Judge discovers the hallmark of modern British dining at Fortnum & Mason’s new restaurant, 45 Jermyn Street
Tucked away in the masculine quarter of Jermyn Street, among all the shops for men’s shirts, shoes, and dressing-gowns, are two of my favourite places. One is Favourbrook, the women’s shop, which is located in Princes Arcade. This delightful little jewel box shop has been making beautiful and unusual jackets and coats for over 15 years. It is the one place in London where I buy clothes, regardless of whether I need them or not, always assisted by the lovely women who make and sell the jackets with great charm and expertise.
Down the road is Fortnum & Mason, the most quintessentially British bastion of marvellous merchandise, perfectly presented and packaged – especially at Christmas. While visiting Favourbrook one day I noticed that Fortnum’s had renovated its historic tea room into a brand new restaurant. So, on the first Saturday afternoon in December, when Christmas shopping was beginning in earnest, my wonderful friend from Hong Kong, Ros Cassidy, came to London, and we headed straight for 45 Jermyn Street.
It was a rainy, cold day, and the warmth of the welcome, as well as the elegant new décor, was a perfect way to start a lunch that lasted almost until the dinner hours. As we were going to watch The Mikado at the English National Opera that evening, we had let our luxurious lunch go on and on. We were led to a corner table in the middle of the room. I chose it because we could sit near enough to hear each other, but far enough away from other diners so that we could not be overheard – a rarity in new restaurants these days.
The charming waiter guided us to dressed Portland crab and Lincolnshire onion tart to start. The onion tart was billed as a vegetarian main, but the flat pie crust topped with lovely savoury sautéed onions turned out to be a perfect starter. The dressed crab was classically prepared, and was as good a rendition as any.
Ros followed with Eddystone Rocks turbot with purple sprouting broccoli. The turbot was absolutely divine, particularly because it was left on the bone, which somehow always gives fish more flavour. I was feeling more adventurous and ordered the spätzle with Dorset blue lobster and sea aster. The combination was compelling, especially since the spätzle was a delicious surprise which is not found on many menus these days.
45 Jermyn Street seems to concentrate on real food, locally-sourced – the hallmark of modern English. That was definitely the feel of the décor, menu and guests. I could not resist dessert, so I ordered the knickerbocker glory. This turned out to be a tall ice cream sundae with gingerbread and cornflake ice cream and topped with soft, sticky meringue, which was truly a child’s delight – and after all, aren’t we all children at heart?
The lovely restaurant got quite lively as the afternoon wore on. Like a number of new restaurants, 45 Jermyn Street is open all day from breakfast until late at night, which was unheard of when I first came to London, and very difficult for early dinners before the theatre or children’s bedtime, whichever was your stage of life.
45 Jermyn Street is a restaurant for all ages and stages, in the middle of London, with something for everyone, from fabulous floats and milkshakes to cocktails and everything in between.
Lady Barbara Judge is currently the chairman of the Pension Protection Fund in the UK, and has held many posts across the corporate and charitable sector, including commissioner of the US Securities and Exchange Commission, and chairman of the UK Atomic Energy Authority. Lady Barbara has always had an abiding love for food, and her frequent international business travels have enabled her to indulge this passion in many top restaurants across the globe. (Lady Barbara Judge pays all of her own expenses.