Knightsbridge…think shopping…think museums…think Royal Albert Hall…think Hyde park…think crowds…think exhaustion…think retreat.
But where, without spending a small fortune on overpriced food and drink? The obvious answer for those canny visitors and locals alike is the Metro Restaurant and Bar, conveniently located in Basil Street, a stone’s throw from the east entrance to Harrods, by Knightsbridge tube. Fine Dining Guide recently discovered this little gem, part of the Levin Hotel, the proprietors of which also own the Capital Hotel next door.
Accessed via an exterior staircase – slow down or you might miss it – The Metro occupies the basement of the Levin. Air conditioning, spot lighting, mirrored pillars and an attractive bar enhance the medium sized room. Well spaced tables with comfortable bucket chairs provide space for 42 diners, with a small outdoor seating areas for drinkers and smokers.
Whilst its food does not aim for Michelin stars, it is honest, well executed and generously portioned. There is no compromise on the quality of the ingredients. For instance, fish comes from the same suppliers as the celebrated Outlaw’s at the Capital next door. Menus change seasonally and give ample choice. From the main menu starters range from £6 to £10, salads and sandwiches £7 to £11 and mains £13 to £20. Desserts are all £5. Sides are all £3. The two and three course set lunch menus – with two options in each course – are priced at £14 and £18 respectively and a glass of Le Vin du Levin (red, white, rosé) from the Levin Estate is just £5. Prices like these in this notoriously expensive part of the West End confirm Metro’s main attraction – it’s excellent value for money.
For those who need to eat early is the wide ranging breakfast menu – Buffet, Sweet, Bagel, Full English and Vegetarian. A further incentive to visit is Happy Hour, weekdays between 5 and 7 pm, when two glasses of house wine and a bowl of nachos are a mere £8.
As the Metro is already well known for its fish and chips and cheese soufflé, we decided to try other dishes from the carte.
Tempura fried prawns had properly light, crisp batter which encased the succulent, delicately flavoured seafood. The chilli dressing was well balanced in its heat and sweetness.
Ratatouille tart had crisp pastry and a finely diced filling which seemed to accentuate the robust Mediterranean flavours of the vegetables. Rocket and fennel salad added freshness with a slight aniseed touch.
Chicken Caesar salad (£7/£14) had plenty of soft breast meat and was faithful to its classical roots with crisp Romaine lettuce and an outstanding dressing of anchovy and Parmesan.
A classic bistro main course of confit duck leg (£14) was accurately rendered, with crisp skin and meltingly tender flesh. Spring onion and mash potatoes – like an Irish champ – was the perfect foil for the rich meat.
Cornish crab linguine (£15) had a generous amount of white and brown meat and precisely timed pasta. The lively, fresh flavour of the crustacean sang in this simple yet luxurious dish.
We also enjoyed the opportunity to sample some Loire Valley wines produced by The Levin’s own Domaine. Spanning Sauvignon Blanc and Gamay grapes (for whites and reds respectively), Levin has 19 vineyards on two different types of terroirs. The sites being planted in the villages of Bourré, Choussy and Oisly, up to around 20 km apart, over about 18 hectares. See http://www.levinwines.com/
Desserts did not disappoint either. A rhubarb and apple crumble with clotted cream (£5) had the right degree of sweetness and acidity with a well textured, buttery topping. A lighter alternative was the ice cream selection at the same price.
Service was welcoming, well informed and unobtrusive. Given how busy the lunch service was, it was also surprisingly efficient.
The Metro deserves a wider audience, not just those who already appreciate its benefits. It is well worth a visit, not just for the food and drink but also for the relative peace and quiet it offers from the hustle and bustle of Knightsbridge. For those with more time to enjoy a special musical event. and a budget that won’t break the bank, advantage should be taken of the special Summer Concert packages for Promenaders and Rockers priced from £295 per room per night based on 2 sharing B&B, including VAT.