Courtyard 51 is now grillin’ Michelin stars
One of the things I love about London is discovering all the little hidden away places that are tucked down the many little alleyways and mews amongst the busy streets of the city.You just never know what hidden gem you’re going to run across, a carefully manicured garden, a centuries old pub or even a lovely Italianate courtyard. I was invited to visit one such place at Courtyard 51, which comes complete with Victorian fountain and reputedly the longest frieze in the world. It depicts all of Shakespear’s plays and links all 8 buildings that make up the courtyard of St. James Court just off Buckingham Gate in Belgravia.
Courtyard 51 at Buckingham Gate is now launching their second season of alfresco dining complete with 4 evenings of opera to enjoy whilst dining on their veranda overlooking the courtyard. The entire area will be converted into an open air opera house. I went along to try the South Indian Coastal inspired cuisine by Michelin starred chef, Siriam Ayur, that they will be serving on their opera evenings and that is always available at the adjacent Quilon restaurant.
Since it was not exactly a balmy summer’s eve, the clouds were out in force and there was a bit of a stiff breeze, our dinner was moved indoors, to the floor of Quilon. The food, however, was delicious. Siriam explained that a specially modified grill is used to cook the food perfectly. As an example, the freshwater char grilled prawns were soft and succulent, expertly grilled with none of the hard spongy quality that comes from being frozen and then thawed out. Some other examples we tried from the grill included Mapla Chicken, Curry leaf and lentil crushed fish and cottage cheese and mixed veg grill. A very tasty dahl and assortment of rices were served along with some curried potato and cauliflower. Despite the fact that it was an Indian themed meal, the food was very light and tasty, not too spicy but with a bit of a kick. Chef explained that all the spices come directly from the source and are picked, vacuum packed and in London within a couple of days. Quilon also has the most spicers in house of any restaurant in London with a total of 4 to grind the spices daily. He also noted that he uses no cream in his cooking as he thinks you should be able to “walk out healthier then when you walked in.” The ala carte menu starts from £15.
Quilon has an excellent wine list and Chef had picked two wines to go along with our meal. The first was a chardonnay from the Languedoc, the Mondeville 2008. Lightly oaked, nice balance, ripe tropical fruit with some hints of spice, I thought it a good match with the mildly spicy food.
The second wine we had was a merlot from Chile, the 2009 San Rafael merlot from the Central Valley. More a house wine then anything else, it was pleasant, soft and fruity but I just didn’t think it quite stood up to the spiciness of the food. In this instance, it’s best to stick with the full, lush white.
Afterward, we went to the Courtyard for coffee and dessert as the wind had died down and it was turning into a pleasant evening. The courtyard is such a lovely place that a contingent of military officers who had been there for an event earlier that day had carried on into the evening. The Courtyard also specializes in Middle Eastern cuisine and we were treated to some deliciously light baklava.
Throughout the summer, they will be featuring the “Dine under the Stars” menu which we sampled, as well as Middle Eastern and American grills along with the opera nights and plenty of other fun events. There is something to be said for finding such a tranquil and delightful spot in the cacophony of Victoria. Check out their website for more info.
The Opera under the Stars menu includes a 3 course gourmet grill and performance and start from £59.50 pp. Thanks to the Courtyard at 51 for inviting me to such a lovely evening, even if it was only partially under the stars.