Avenue, St James’s
A date in St James’s? Sounds pretty swanky, but Avenue has all the west central class without the stiffness. Dimly lit with high ceilings and a bar filled fresh seasonal flowers, the dark wood floors and striking wine glass chandelier whisper a tone of relaxed sophistication. With seamless service, Avenue offers an uncomplicated menu with modern American and British fusion fair served up on candle-lit cloth-less tables. Cocktails here are crafted on transatlantic rivalry which the restaurant pens as the world’s two greatest cities; London and New York (feel free to debate this).
There’s nothing like some cocktail drama to kick off with. Go for the Smoky St James (bourbon, maple syrup and orange bitters) twist off the top of the tin canister this cocktail comes in and pour into your glass and over rocks of ice as the smoke escapes. The beautifully presented smoked venison carpaccio with picked plum and baby kale make an interesting combination where the sharply balanced flavours only add to the anticipation of the much heavier mains.
I can only comment on what we ordered, but take my word and go for the 800g grass fed Charolais cote de boeuf – don’t worry, that’s to share. There are no awkward glances as you decide how you want your meat cooked (we had ½ well done and ½ rare). Served sliced into on a platter, it creates some dinner table interaction alongside, perfect with a selection of lighter sides – the curly kale with toasted walnuts is a winner. If you’re considering dessert, keep it fresh with a sorbet selection and pineapple carpaccio – this isn’t the place for meat sweats and that irritating little bit of chocolate mousse that somehow finds its way stuck in the corner of your mouth.
Request the table on the raised area at the far side of the restaurant; it’ll give a sense of elevation and intimacy without feeling too crowded. The cocktail list is fun but make sure you order digestifs which come with chilled chocolates, and maybe even a good night kiss as you walk into the night…
There’s atmospheric music and chatting fellow diners but this restaurant doesn’t roar. If you seek a sense of drama to ignite your conversation and fade away first date nerves, this might not be the place for you.
3. This isn’t a destination for debauchery. If you’re looking for a spark, this place will do the job but for the flame you’ll want to head on… try the Experimental Cocktail Club.