Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Restaurant Review: Criterion Restaurant, Piccadilly Circus


 The other day a group of 9 friends and I headed off to Criterion restaurant in Piccadilly Circus. This was such a long awaited trip for me; I've wanted to go there for such a long time and I've made restaurant bookings there several times, usually for a friends birthday or similar events, but I've always ended up cancelling as for some reason something has always come up or the restaurant just seemed a little too formal for what we wanted. Oddly, this seemed to be a familiar theme throughout the group - everyone had thought about going there repeatedly but not quite managed it before. But at last, I finally managed to keep a reservation! Apologies for the fact that I've used phone pictures throughout - I came straight from a 12 hour day of physical training, so as I was already carrying a huge bag of kit I didn't really want to chuck my DSLR in there too! They're all a bit orangey because flash just watered everything out, but hopefully you still get the idea. If not, more motivation for you to check it out yourself :)

  First impressions were initially a bit mixed. From the outside, it is a little bit hidden. Sure, it has a big lit up name but you can't really see inside, and being in Piccadilly means that a lit up sign isn't anywhere near enough to gain the attention of the masses. However, that's not necessarily a bad thing; I really dislike the area in general - it took me a grand total of fifteen minutes to walk there from Leicester Square, the two should be about three minutes apart but with the thousands of people that like to just stand in the path or swarm into you I had to basically swim through people to get to the restaurant, and I was really hoping it would be worth the annoyance of being in central London on a Saturday night.



  Well - it was! From the second I walked my way around the big revolving door entrance I just had to stop and look at it. Cue me becoming like the tourists outside as my group all slowly bumped into each other as we did the exact same thing of piling in and then stopping and staring. The restaurant really is beautiful - it's nearly impossible to do it justice through description or even pictures as it just doesn't capture the atmosphere at all. Criterion is a Grade II listed building first opened in 1874 and it just oozes luxury; the place looks expensive, like you should really be paying significantly more for your meal than you are. It's dimly lit but in a way that makes perfect sense, the ceiling is beautiful with a mosaic over it, and there's all sorts of pretty decorations that you begin to notice more and more throughout your meal. It's a lovely place to go and dress up and you very definitely feel like you are in an older time - and if you are like me, that you really can't afford to be there!



  The atmosphere was great throughout - there was a live pianist who sang more modern songs in a jazz style, and she was really great. Quite often we would stop to listen as the songs were fantastic and done in such a nice way that suited the environment so well. We were there for nearly four hours, and a large portion of that was because we wanted to listen to more of the music! This was originally a bit of a negative as it's actually quite loud and it could be quite hard to hear each other at times, but it was so worth it.

  The only negative I'd have to say in terms of atmosphere and design is that the place was absolutely boiling! And that the toilets were abnormally teeny. We had a queue outside of the door which you wouldn't really expect in a restaurant like Criterion.

  Moving on to the food - it is very affordable for what you get. They do a daily set menu which is £25 for three courses and a champagne cocktail, and it's actually amazing!



  For my starter, I had the soup of the day which was tomato and roasted pepper. It was delicious - you could taste all of the flavours and it was the perfect strength. There was also loads of it, it took me ages to eat it and that was with the help of friends! The only thing I disliked about it was the temperature. It was soup, so of course it was hot, but with the heat of the restaurant as well it all became a little overwhelming, and if I'd realised that when I ordered I would have gone for something different - but it really was very nice, and I'm quite picky on my soups! The other picture is of the salmon gravidlax.



  For my main, I had the salmon - it was delicious! It was served with beetroot and horseradish puree, samphire and chive beurre blanc. Understand those words? Me neither, but it tasted so good that you can just take the menu's word for it. There were so many flavours in the fish. I am that person who usually leaves most of the vegetables and anything that looks healthy but I actually completely cleared my plate because it was so delicious. I also tried the tagliatelle and that was delicious as well. No one seemed even slightly disappointed with their mains!


  For my pudding, I had the lemon posset, with spiced poached clementines, lemon verbena granite and orange foam. It was very, ah, strange. It was a good kind of strange, don't get me wrong, but it's almost impossible to describe it! The flavours were very strong and sharp so it had to be eaten slowly and it did sort of hurt my throat half way through, but it really was very nice, and very interesting. All of the desserts were a little bit odd actually - reactions to them were very mixed, but on the whole people were happy though desserts were definitely the weakest part.



  Finally, we were brought over a tray of little bites - they were all brownie and fudge pieces. I only managed a piece of the brownie because I was so full up by that point, but it was good, very rich, and the reaction seemed to be that the fudge was extremely rich as well!

  Overall I really enjoyed the meal, and definitely enjoyed the experience as a whole. I'd like to go back to the restaurant again and I would recommend it - it worked really well as a friend group, and I think it would be really perfect for a date - it's such a beautiful restaurant yet for some reason not intimidating, though by looking at it it certainly should be! I paid £25 for three courses and a cocktail and thought it was excellent value - if you'd prefer to go a la carte you're looking at around £25 for a main course alone.
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1 comment

  1. Ooh this sounds lovely and it's so hard to find a decent restaurant nr Leicester Sq - it's all either over priced, stupidly fancy places or horrible chains! Will add this to my memory, thanks! x
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