The fact that it is virtually impossible to find the restaurant, were it not for the extremely helpful staff of the hotel, is not the only issue Mr Mendham has to deal with. In a building such as this, the space that 36 now occupies was certainly not conceived as a dining room: The ceilings are low, there is no reception area or booth, and you simply have to walk into the main dining room to make yourself noticed.
Once you walk in, the first thing that strikes you is the relatively unusual look of the room. Somehow, it looks like it was designed in a way that might have been fashionable 5 years ago. Compared to the timeless elegance of the rest of the hotel, this looks a bit like someone tried too hard to be modern. That being said, we shan’t judge dining rooms based on their appearance, but should stick to the food and wine one can enjoy there.
Mendham cooks food that is without noticeable technical errors at 36. It is British cuisine, focusing on simple dishes and understandable combinations of flavours. Take a mackerel for instance. The fish is of decent quality and well-timed. Paired with watercress, capers, eel and deep-fried quail’s eggs this is a delicious dish. Nothing sticks out, and the balance between the various products is just right.
For those who like a Sunday Roast, this is just the right place. The portions are big, and the pricing fair. The beef comes carved and cooked medium and properly seasoned. The only thing this dish could do with is a bit more punch and seasoning as the gravy isa tad thin and one-dimensional, whilst the vegetables lack salt. When it comes to desserts however, things are back at the level of the starters. Solid dishes with good flavours that are simply delicious.
The cooking at 36 seems capable. Nigel Mendham and his brigade can certainly deliver in terms of composition and flavour, but in one matter they are behind the competition at this level in London: Product-quality. Whilst the prices charged at 36 for lunch don’t let one expect the highest quality possible, one has to say that other restaurants in a similar price range go that bit further in their search for high-quality produce.
As things stand, 36 is a restaurant that has the ambition to be among the very best in the city. Whilst this is not yet the case, it is a restaurant that does a very good job, and clearly has potential to develop much further in the future.