There's something immensely reassuring about Quod. It looks right, it feels right, they get the orders right (including allergy advice), they care about the details. We were invited along because they are just relaunching the menu. (But fear not - it still feels like Quod!) In some ways they have a tricky pitch, being a hotel restaurant, a cocktail bar and serving a range of food from gastropub style bar food all the way up to fine dining. That they pull it off is a testament to their attention to detail: take a moment to marvel at the way the pools of light fall perfectly on each table, meaning you can see what you're eating, but the atmosphere is still cosy and intimate.
We started with a glass of Prosecco, and a Manhattan, and bread, and gluten-free bread. Big brownie points right off. The fizz was well rounded and not too sweet. The Manhattan was strong, bold, definitely up to scratch if you like that kind of thing. We launched into the meal with chicken terrine and carpaccio of beef. The chicken smelt quite garlicky, but was actually a subtle and delicious jumble of lemon, basil, garlic, accompanied with something like crab apple jelly, the crispiest and most perfectly seasoned skin, and watercress. The beef just melted on the tongue like magic. It came with artichoke hearts, parmesan, horseradish and watercress. The watercress went well with the beef, which stood up to it, but it rather stomped on the chicken. I felt crisp lettuce, or in a perfect world pea shoots would be a better bed of greenery, though it didn't really need anything extra at all.
For mains my companion stuck with his beef theme, with short ribs, mash and kale. I moved sideways to vegetable biryani with cashews, raita and poppadums. Short work was made of the short ribs, with every sign of enjoyment. The biryani was a hybrid, more Anglo than Indian, being composed of broccoli and carrots, which were well done in the heat of the rice. But the sauce that accompanied it packed a hefty punch of both flavour and chilli, and gave the dish exactly the kick it needed. The other elements were well thought out; the sauce is the bit I can picture still. We had switched drinks for the mains, to a cool and soothing Gruner Veltliner, and a sumptuous Ribera del Duero. If I had my time again I'd go for a bottle of the Ribera which added depth to both dishes. It was like lying on a large velvet rug patting a tiger. A beautiful wine.
Having got this far we couldn't resist a look at the pudding menu, and fell for Quince tart with crème fraîche, and clementine sorbet. The sorbet was too sweet for me, almost a marmeladey flavour, but then I do like my desserts with considerably more acid and clementines just aren't the sharpest tool in the citrus box, so I should have known better. The quince tart, however, caused my companion to come over all starry eyed, and when I tried a snippet of quince I could see why. The delicate fruit were almost crystallised, but so that their perfume was captured perfectly. Crème frache was the right choice of accessory. It was all good.
We were offered hot milk with coffee, the pudding cutlery was beautiful and tiny, the art on the walls is pleasingly gritty and punctures any thought of pretension. In short, Quod is a remarkably successful chameleon, good for afternoon tea, or a rapid pre-theatre supper on the terrace, or a long dinner where you are treated like a VIP. It was busy, but not oppressive, and we saw plenty of beautiful people. But there was none of that fabled toying with food rather than eating it. It was too damn tasty.
3 courses around £25-£35 per head plus drinks.