Foliage at the Mandarin Oriental

Posted on Tuesday, 28th April 2009

This restaurant has now closed, and will be replaced by Heston Blumenthal’s new restaurant Dinner.

Pork belly with macaroni cheese, spiced pumpkin & black pudding

Pork belly with macaroni cheese, spiced pumpkin & black pudding

Having been to French based Foliage on two previous occasions which I thoroughly enjoyed, I came to consider this restaurant as a worthwhile destination. My first visit was for dinner on the à la carte menu, and my second, some nine months ago, was on the set lunch menu at £29, which to my surprise I found to be as good as the à la carte. The portion sizes over the four courses were also very generous, and considering the price tag, was incredible value. That and the fact that you are assured views of Hyde Park during the day made me question why anyone would consider dining at Foliage for dinner when lunch is such a fantastic option. Therefore, when fellow blogger Loving Annie suggested that we lunch at Foliage a few weeks ago, I jumped at the chance to revisit what I had always considered to be a little gem.

The dining room at Foliage is a statement in geometry and symmetry. Designed by Adam Tihany, it combines rosewood wall paneling with dark wood chairs upholstered in butterscotch leather. Tihany wanted to ‘bring the park into the restaurant’ and for this purpose, layered between the glass wall panels, are 24,000 white silk leaves which are brought to life through the use of both clever natural lighting as their colours change in line with the seasons. Head chef is Chris Staines, who previously worked under Nico Ladenis and Marco Pierre White, and who took over at Foliage in March 2002.

The amuse bouche was a watercress soup with cream cheese and Parma ham. On its own, the soup was light, creamy and flavourful. Loving Annie really liked the dish, although I found the cream cheese overpowering as an accompaniment to the watercress.

Watercress soup with cream cheese & Parma ham

Watercress soup with cream cheese & Parma ham

A starter of haddock raviolo with leeks, herring roe and lobster was also stuffed with a runny egg yolk, which delightfully ran yellow when the pasta was broken. However, it lacked symmetry of flavour as the balance between the egg and the seafood curiously did not work. The pasta was also slightly under done and a little chewy. An almond gazpacho with basil and tomato was lovely, fresh and with lots of bite.

Haddock raviolo with leeks, herring roe & lobster

Haddock raviolo with leeks, herring roe & lobster

John Dory with black ink tempura was dry and overcooked. Unfortunately, as the dish was also light on sauce, it also had the effect of highlighting the overall dryness of the plate. The fish was also a touch under seasoned, although the pieces of fish were meaty, and the portion size generous for an intermediate dish.

John Dory with black ink tempura

John Dory with black ink tempura

Asparagus with poached egg and black truffle was heavy with the natural juiciness of the asparagus, which is now in season, and was rather delightful in its simplicity. However the poached egg appeared to be overcooked, for when it was broken the yolk did not run but held firm. We queried this with the wait staff, and although we remained dubious, they maintained that a firm yolk had been the intention of the Chef.

Asparagus with poached egg & black truffle

Asparagus with poached egg & black truffle

A pork belly with macaroni cheese, spiced pumpkin and black pudding was pleasant and tasty. The pork was tender and succulent, but its crackling could have been crispier and crunchier, and the other side ingredients could have worked harder to help make this dish shine. The execution was also slightly uneven, with the dish erring on the salty side. Gnocchi with shallots, sage and butternut squash was a little disappointing, as it was too sweet for a main course.

Gnocchi with shallots, sage & butternut squash

Gnocchi with shallots, sage & butternut squash

A Calvados soufflé with green apple ice and sea salt caramel tasted more like beaten egg whites and did not bear the trademark of a good soufflé. There was also no discernible flavour of calvados. The green apple ice was delicious, but was best eaten on its own rather than in conjunction with the soufflé.

Calvados soufflé with green apple ice & sea salt caramel

Calvados soufflé with green apple ice & sea salt caramel

The service was pleasant all round and was as expected of a 5 star hotel. At any other restaurant, £29 for the four courses that we had would have been exceptional value. And while the food was good overall, it was somehow lacking. This meal did not bear a similar resemblance to the quality of cooking that I had experienced previously. The execution lacked precision and the delivery was just not quite good enough for a one star Michelin restaurant. Reading Andy Hayler’s blog, apparently there is a rumour that Heston Blumenthal might open up at the Mandarin Oriental. Perhaps this had an effect on the cooking during our visit.

Finally, thanks to Loving Annie, a charming and lovely lady, for a really nice afternoon spent. To read her post on Foliage, click here.

Note: Shortly after this visit, Chris Staines left Foliage.

Summary information

Food rating: [xrr rating=3.5/5]
Service rating: [xrr rating=3.5/5]

Price – An extra course can be ordered as part of the lunch menu for an additional £7.50. The four course lunch menu with 2 glasses of sommelier’s wine is £37. The lunch tasting menu is £55. Dinner is £60 for four courses. Excludes drinks and service.

Foliage at the Mandarin Oriental at:
66 Knightsbridge,
London SW1X 7LA,
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0)20 7235 2000

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5 Responses to “Foliage at the Mandarin Oriental”

  1. Natasha - 5 Star Foodie Says...

    Your pictures are excellent and the food looks good – I’m sorry that it wasn’t great but it sounds like you had a lot of fun with Loving Annie!

  2. Loving Annie Says...

    Good Tuesday morning to you, Girl ! You are so sweet – I really enjoyed meeting you as well, and hope our friendship continues 🙂

    Your review said it perfectly, and it seems like all 4 of us are in agreement, even though the three of you explain the WHY’s of each dish working or not working more eloquently than I do.

    A 7 rating was very fair.

    It’s a pretty setting… If Heston Blumenthal opened up here, that would be wonderful !

    Hope you have a good week – I’m back on a strict diet now, too much gastronomic fun while in London !

  3. 'A Girl Has To Eat' Says...

    Hi Natasha, Yes dining with Loving Annie was really fun.

    Hi Loving Annie, yes it was fun. I hope we definitely stay in touch. I will be sure to see you next time you are in London and hopefully I shall make a trip to the US sometime. If Heston does open there, I will be there in a flash!

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  5. Nicholas Says...

    amazing stuff thanx 🙂