RESTAURANT REVIEW: THEO RANDALL AT THE INTERCONTINENTAL
Theo Randall at the Intercontinental celebrated his 10 year anniversary this year with a restaurant refurbishment and a menu revamp. Does the new taste of modernity measure up to the old menu?
Words: Alexander Larman
The ex-Head Chef of the River Café, Theo Randall, has built a considerable reputation as one of the most exciting purveyors of Italian food in London. It has long struck industry insiders as faintly odd that he’s chosen to remain at the Intercontinental off Park Lane rather than branching out to his own premises, and perhaps as a result of this the restaurant has had a complete refurbishment, and Randall has wholly overhauled his menu. So, does it work?
First things first: the room is proof that all the money in the world cannot alter certain difficulties. The windowless setting – how very different to the River Café – is perhaps an insurmountable difficulty, but while the earlier incarnation had a pleasantly clubby atmosphere, the refit has chosen to emphasise a slightly odd lighting scheme. Of course, it’s all still comfortable and slick and very much on brand with the five star hotel that it belongs to, one just wishes that there had been more real innovation here.
The food, however, is every bit as sensational as it’s always been, and proof that Randall – one of that rare breed of celebrity chefs who takes pride on spending as much time in his restaurant as he can – is the equal of anyone producing this sort of high-end cuisine in London. After bellinis with just the right tartness and – a nice touch – a plate of bruschetta and focaccia, we plump for Randall’s five-course tasting menu, a whistle-stop tour of his signature dishes. We are extremely glad we did. The scallops with polenta are cooked perfectly, the slight juiciness of the scallop balanced perfectly with the sage and chilli in the dish. Pasta has always been a strength here, and agnolotti di piccione – to the layman, a kind of filled pasta stuffed with pigeon and pancetta – has just the right carnivorous kick, without being overwhelmingly meaty. Even the rack of Somerset lamb has just the right balance between gutsy flavour and delicacy. Matched with delectable wines by the knowledgeable sommelier, it’s almost too much fun.
If the cheese course is pleasant rather than revelatory, then the best has been saved for last. Randall’s Amalfi lemon tart is the sort of thing that people are known to nod, conspiratorially, when it’s mentioned, and had it not been on the new menu, there would have been rioting. Thankfully, it’s still there. It ends a meal that shows Randall is still an exceptionally able cook, and one wonders if, one day, he will be able to showcase his skill in a more individualistic setting.
Dinner for two around £200
Drop-dead delicious Italian cuisine from a maestro
What to eat..
The lemon tart, of course, but any of the pasta dishes
What to know…
There are various set menus, including a 4-course seasonal tasting at £50 and a good-value offering at £35 for three courses
1 Hamilton Place W1J 7QY; 020 7318 8747; theorandall.com