D&D group has been long famous for churning out brilliant eating spots in the most glamorous settings, from the on-trend German Gymnasium to the historic Royal Exchange. But D&D group doesn’t only focus on its stylish decor, but thankfully the food as well, as evident by its subsidiaries’ Michelin stars and celebrity chefs. It is as well oiled a machine as other London big guns like the Caprice, and Corbyn & King. In fact, I would argue that D&D may have even surpassed the former two in the sense that it brings more and varied restaurants to cope with the never-ending Instagram-induced ‘food trend’, and does so in popular locations with reasonably affordable menu.(Keep an eye on whenever they have new restaurants or new menus, they often offer a discount then!) It seems that the group has an eye on locations
Most of their restaurants are in prime locations like Kensington, West End, or the City. The recent opening of Aster saw D&D group involved in the new project of Nova Victoria, joining names like Jason Atherton; whilst the next one will be Francesco Mazzei’s much anticipated project at the iconic Battersea Power Station.
Anyway, back to todays subject – Skylon. It is part of the D&D group and located inside the Royal Festive Hall on the Southbank. It combines an excellent location, and breathtaking views (which will deservedly gobble up a few more on word count later), with precise and technically sound cooking. Skylon is headed by the talented Cheshire-born Executive Chef Kim Woodward who trained under Gordon Ramsey at York and Albany and the illustrious Savoy Grill where she became the first female head chef. She also appeared in Master Chef Professionals and Great British Menu, where she progressed far down in both competitions.
Skyline is located within the Royal Festive Hall, which means navigation was always going to bit of a Crystal Maze affair, at least for me. It has always been a bit of a strange concept for me to walk through a communal building before I actually arrive in the restaurant. That’s why I am always put off by the idea of dining in a shopping mall. Imagine an afternoon tea at the Selfridges basement, constantly getting judged by punters on the escalators while we shout shamelessly and sip tea nervously. Blimey! But Skylon is nowhere near that bad in that regard. It is in the building, but in a rather secluded wing encased by floor-to-ceiling windows to ensure a tranquil dining experience.
The incredibly high ceiling, not to mention the breath-taking views of the Thames and the Golden Jubilee Bridge, immediately gives Skylon a sense of occasion. Comprised by a large bar on the left and formal dining on the right, the interior is smartly decorated with pastel colours, wood and the mint green hexagon-kissed carpet, which evokes a casual modern British cool. And the Cool Britannia goes beyond.
All very good so far. The precise a la carte menu, with around six choices over the three courses, is the product of an experienced and confident chef who marries British seasonal products with classical cooking. There is no foam, no crumbs to ‘play with texture’, nor odd flavour coupling done for the sake of being clever. In our most recent visit, my co-dinner and I had the smoked salmon cannelloni and the celery soup to start with. The latter might sound the most unpleasant choice for a decent restaurant, but the clever use of trout roe and cured prawn makes it a very memorable dish and the cooling cucumber hint as the backdrop makes it a perfect crisp autumn starter. The salmon cannelloni is a tidy pretty fish, if not just slightly on the small size at the price of £14 (restaurant view NOT taken into account) for what is essentially, albeit a very beautiful reincarnation indeed, just some salmon mousse and no more than 2 slices of smoked salmon.
For the main course, I had the Lancashire Duck breast while my partner went for the monkfish. I was drawn to the duck over the venison due to the promise of duck hearts. It did not disappoint. Plump and pink breasts with the heart makes it an almost mallard experience due to the richness. It is a good thing! The right amount of sharpness from the roasted quince balances out the dish perfectly. My partner’s monkfish with clams and lobster bisque was an equally pleasant choice. These flavour combinations are by no means adventurous but when done well, they are an absolutely treat. All sides are priced at a very fair £3.50 and the triple cooked chips were particularly good. Skylon also offers an extensive wine list focusing on both old and new world, with a wide price range. I was rather excited by the inclusion of Tokaji Aszu, a Hungarian dessert wine, but unfortunately it only came in a bottle. Perhaps a good thing as the bottle costs just south of £90 which makes it an almost 3.5 times markup.
Skylon also offers a lunch and pre/post theatre menu for the cultures vultures or bargain hunters. At less than £30 per person, the menu is understandably smaller but by all no means mean-spirited with still four choices over each course! The time we had lunch there in the summer (always request the window seats if possible), the main of suckling pig two ways was the standout dishe. With the sun setting early these months, I would highly recommend a pre-theatre menu by the window for the sweeping views of the Thames and go take a stroll along South Bank after. Life is bliss in the beautiful London, even in the winter.
London Lamppost Score – 4/5
Royal Festival Hall,
020 7654 7800