Location: London Guards Hotel, 36-37 Lancaster Gate, London, W2 3NA
Date of visit: 21 January 2011
Time of visit: 8.30pm
Steve and Elle ate: Karmir bibar (Steve) and mushroom Julienne (Elle) to start, Dolma Echmiadzin style (Steve) and lula-kebab (Elle)
This restaurant is actually in the basement of the London Guards Hotel, and access is through the main hotel entrance, past the reception. After walking down the stairs to the restaurant, we were met straight away by a waitress who took out jackets and led us to a table. One of the first things we noticed was the young male keyboard player by the entrance to the restaurant, playing not traditional Armenian songs, but jazz! Russian TV was on the plasma screen nearby.The menu is very extensive, with good explanations of all the dishes, including the origins of the dishes. There is a huge selection of cold starters, with a handful of hot starters and soups. The selection of main courses, including seafood dishes, is also impressive.
As for the drinks menu, this is also quite extensive, with a good selection of Georgian wines, flavoured vodkas and relevant beers. I had hoped for a bottle of Armenian lager, but unfortunately out of the list of beers they only had Baltika, a Russian lager, which I opted for. Elle, who was working through a New Year resolution of no alcohol in January, went for the Diet Coke option. And there was no chance of her overdoing it on that, as it was £1.50 per tiny glass bottle.
To the food. which arrived in good time. Unusually I opted for a cold vegetarian starter which consisted of marinated red pepper served with garlic and parsley. The red pepper slices was rather huge, as was the quantity of parsley. In fact the flavour was pretty overpowering, but not at all unpleasant.
Elle's starter was sliced mushrooms in a creamy sauce, topped with cheese. It came in a really small dish, and the portion at first appeared too small. It ended up actually being quite a substantial and very enjoyable course.
The starters came with a serving of six slices of heavy brown bread, with no butter.
Onto the mains. My main course is seen as being one of the traditional Armenian staples, and was their take on dolma - large vine leaves stuffed with minced lamb, rice and herbs, served with a creamy garlic yoghurt. I would go as far as to say this meal was stunning. The lamb meat was of the melt-in-the-mouth variety and the garlic mayonnaise type dressing was gorgeous. Also perched on the side was mesmerising side salad consisting of a structured multi-tomato creation, and a few branches of parsley. The portion was decent, but it left you wanting more simply because it was so enjoyable.
Elle's lula-kebab was as it sounds - a lamb kebab with parsley and onions oosely wrapped in a tortilla bread, served with white rice. Two cucumber-based dipping pots containing a garlic mayonnaise sauce topped this meal off. However, there wasn't a huge amount of sauce leading to a fairly dry meal.
Overall, the service was great, food was excellent and the presentation was especially memorable. Only a few downsides - the lack of beer available, the tiny and pricey bottles of Diet Coke and finding out that we had been charged for the bread that came earlier in the meal, despite not asking for it. Still, that doesn't really take away from what was a great, authentic Armenian meal. Highly recommended
Cost of meal: £45 including drinks