The thing about the Wigmore is that it’s good. It’s really good. The fact that it’s barely five minutes’ walk from Oxford Circus – something which would normally put me off being anywhere near it – works in its favour here. You won’t quite be able to believe just how close you are to the part of London that makes normal people want to curl up in a corner and cry because it’s so beautiful and welcoming and soothing and buzzing and stylish inside. Those are adjectives never usually applied to a sentence containing the words ‘oxford’ and ‘circus’.
Decked out in shades of pistachio and olive, lit by glowing copper stemmed bulbs and offering polished wood, leather stools & the comfiest of armchairs, it looks for all the world like a cross between a movie-set court-room and the personal library of your Pinterest dreams. As someone with a bit of thing for bar-side dining, my tip would be to get there for an early-bird dinner and bag two seats on the back of the 360-degree bar. You’re on the quieter side of the space but perfectly placed within chatting distance of the very friendly bartenders. You’re also ideally seated for people watching, my favourite kind of acceptable nosiness.
With a menu from the pen and the pan of Michel Roux Jnr, the fact that it’s simple, elegant and exciting will come as no surprise. Certain dishes have, naturally, already become staples on London’s late 2017 Instagram dining scene – hello baby crumpets and giant toastie – whilst others are less showy but stonkingly delicious.
You can’t have a decent bar menu without chips. Here they arrive chunky as a Christmas lovers’ thighs come January 2nd when all that remains of the Quality Street are tooth shatteringly unlikeable toffee pennies. These chips are hot, crispy, fluffy and covered in an intensely sharp & moreish Bloody Mary Salt.Those afore mentioned crumpets are perfect two-bite canape inspiration and come topped with sweet crab meat, brittle slivers of seaweed and a smattering of paprika. Rich and fresh, this is the second time in as many months that I’ve seen these baby crumpets out and about and, as pugs & party food are proof that the world loves anything miniature, I’m just gonna place my bets and call them out now as something we’ll be seeing everywhere by the end of 2018.Like Kricket’s Bhel Puri and Tandoor Chop House’s bhaji onion rings, the Wigmore’s Masala Scotch eggs are an unexpected knockout of an Indian inspired dish. Golf ball sized eggs are rolled in what looks like shredded kataifi pastry and then deep fried until as golden brown & crunchy as the skin of the TOWIE cast in August. Delicately spiced, softly boiled and sat on a bed of dhal-esque relish heavily laden with cooling yoghurt and leafy coriander stems, this is a beautifully fragrant and cleverly put together update on arguably the most classic of all Boxing Day buffet party-foods.
Twenty in a plastic tub ready for cocktail stick stabbing on December 26th? If those bad boys looked and tasted like these bad boys, I’d have no hesitation in corralling them all onto my plate.Grilled sardines were salty, fresh & moreish, perched tails aloft on fat taramasalata squiggled sourdough soldiers……whilst a no-word-of-a-lie XXL three cheese & cranberry toastie arrived triumphantly oozy underneath a stove top grill iron which, when reverentially removed, trailed stringy melted cheese in its wake in a way that was appallingly seductive.
Decadent and somewhat gut-busting though absolutely worth rolling down the top of your waistband for, ‘bargain’ might seem like a questionable compliment to sniffier diners but at less than a tenner this has to be one of the capital’s best right now.There are a couple of points that may cause an elevated eyebrow – payment is taken via either a tab which requires your card to be kept behind the bar or ‘pay as you go’ which includes a service charge even on a single glass of wine – but I can’t deny that the Wigmore might have snuck in at the last moment to become one of my favourite dinners of 2017.
Till the day I die I’ll be waving my flag and trying to convince you that a dining experience does not begin & end as the first and last forks are raised from table to mouth. Being made to feel welcome, being helped with queries without derision, being served promptly & considerately and in an environment that frankly makes me want to move in and set up camp…these things all matter to me as much as the ingredients & dishes I’m eating. Whitesnake once asked ‘is this love’ – they must have been talking about the Wigmore because the answer is yes.