The Landau restaurant at the Langham Hotel (which dates back to 1865) has a striking dining room, oval shaped with windows overlooking All Souls Church, wood panelling on the opposite wall and a vaulting ceiling. The wooden floor means that noise levels can be a little high, but tables are not packed too closely together. Since late 2010 Michel Roux Junior and his father Albert Roux have taken over the restaurant, installing Chris King (who worked at Le Gavroche for the last five years, with a stint at Per Se) as head chef at the tender age of 26. As might be expected, the menu is fairly classical, but with some lighter, more modern touches in places. The tasting menu is £75 (or £135 with wine pairing). On the a la carte, starters ranged from £9 to £17, main courses from £17 to £29, desserts were £8 and cheese £12.
The wine list is extensive, with 59 densely packed pages of wine from good growers from around the world. The mark-ups have actually come down since the Roux takeover of the Landau, but the general pricing level is, even so, still quite high. However there was some variation through the list, so some wines can be found with relatively fair pricing, for example the lovely Trimbach Clos St Hune 2003 was £220 compared to a retail price of £95, a little over twice retail. A more typical mark-up level was the Piccadilly Grosset Chardonnay from Adelaide Hills 2005, listed at £62 for a wine that will set you back around £18 to buy. Henschke Mount Edelstone 2004 was £142 for a wine that retails at around £44, and the very pleasant Martinborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008 was £38 for a wine that costs about £12 retail. At the high end of the list, Latour 1990 was listed at £1,640 for a wine that can be purchased for £685, while the magnificent Petrus 1982 was priced at £6,670 compared to an average retail price of £4,196. The sommelier knew his wines and provided sensible guidance on choices, though as I was having the tasting menu I ended up going for the wine pairing. Breads were made in the kitchen, and I most enjoyed the brown sliced bread, but the poppy seed roll, white roll and granary baguette were also pleasant (5/10). Mineral water was priced at £5.50 for 750 ml, which is excessive even by central London standards.
Here are brief notes from a lunch in March 2011.
Scallops from the Orkneys had good flavour, with that inherent hint of sweetness that scallops should have, nicely cooked and served with a sensible accompaniment of Jerusalem artichoke and truffle puree (7/10). Sea bass (wild rather than farmed) was also cooked carefully, served with crisp Serrano ham and a puy lentil and seaweed ragour (5/10). Blood orange and pistachio soufflé with honey and clove ice cream also demonstrated reasonable skill, the intended flavours coming through nicely, though the texture of the soufflé was not quite as light in texture as the best of its breed (5/10). Service was excellent throughout.
The more detailed notes that follow are from a dinner in January 2011
Amuse-bouches comprised a quail egg with celeriac remoulade on a rather hard crouton, which seemed to me a little under-seasoned, while by contrast an otherwise pleasant chorizo pastille was quite salty; best was a pork terrine with sauerkraut (4/10 overall, the better pork being better). A trio of Orkney scallops were plump, sweet, fresh and very nicely timed, topped with black truffle and with a smooth and deeply flavoured Jerusalem artichoke puree – a lovely dish (7/10).
My tasting menu began with a white bean soup poured over croquettes of Manchego cheese and celery and the smoky Spanish pepper pimenton de la vera. I liked the croquettes and peppers, but the bean veloute itself did not have enough depth of flavour, though its seasoning was fine (4/10). I wasn’t really convinced by the pairing of a Lustau Puerto Fino Solera sherry with this. Next was citrus cured organic salmon with beetroot, crème fraiche and a little Aquitaine caviar. The salmon itself did not seem to me to have particularly great taste, and the beetroot was surprisingly lacking in flavour, so the overall effect was a little bland, admittedly helped by the saltiness of the caviar. I think conceptually this is a good dish, but the quality of the ingredients was not high enough to really make it stand out (4/10). The wine pairing for this dish was the very enjoyable Martinborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008.
Better was sea bass with salsify and Norfolk brown shrimp and braised lettuce, with a little meat jus. The fish was high quality and very carefully cooked, with crisp skin and firm flesh. The little shrimps were tender and the overall dish worked well (6/10). This dish was accompanied by a glass of the pleasant Grosset Piccadilly Chardonnay 2006. Next was a salad of chicken oysters with hen’s egg in a crisp crust, chicken scratchings with endive, shallots and hazelnuts. This worked very well, with a nice contrast of textures, good chicken and the bitter note from the endive lifting the overall dish (6/10). The dish was paired with Vielle Vignes Cuvee from Jean Claude Lapalu 2009. My wife had very carefully cooked Dover sole, served on the bone with a little well-balanced hollandaise sauce: this was a simple dish but impeccably executed (6/10). The main course was feather blade (a cut between the neck and fore rib) of beef with a horseradish crust, served on a bed of mash and red wine flavoured jus. This is a cut that needs to be slow cooked, and it was indeed very tender. The advertised braised kale didn’t seem to make it to my plate, and this would have given a welcome balance to the richness of the dish (5/10).
A plate of cheese featured Epoisses in excellent condition, Roquefort and a less impressive Red Leicester (with the other French classics on the plate why not a Comte or Beaufort in its place?). This was paired with, for me, a rather uninteresting Rivesaltes Vin Doux Naturel Domain Gauby 2005. Pear William and walnut soufflé was served with bitter chocolate sorbet (paired with Chateau de Cerons 1998). The pear and walnut flavours came through well enough, but I found the texture of the soufflé itself a little heavy (4/10). A dish of exotic fruits with coconut sorbet and kaffir lime syrup has a sorbet that needed deeper coconut flavour, while the fruits themselves just seemed to lack much flavour (I may be a little unkind here, as I just spent the last two weeks in India eating beautifully fresh fruit, so the flavour contrast may have struck me more than it would usually have done). Still, it was hard to get excited about this (3/10). Overall this was a most enjoyable meal, with some inconsistency but also some genuine highs. Chris King is clearly a talented chef, and I expect his cooking to develop further. Service was very good indeed, even with a full dining room.