Cooling, Lawrence & Wells were tailors of taste. Between 1892 and the 1970s, the trio and their descendants had both the prime position (just off Bond Street), the military connections and the storied clientele (including Winston Churchill) to achieve international renown for bespoke tailoring. A short walk from Savile Row and next to Shapero, Ben Elwes and James Hyman galleries, the former tailor's shop was subsequently turned into a deeply average Brown’s restaurant - and now the site has emerged as somewhere really worth investigating.
Stepping inside the Grade II listed building, the welcome is friendly and the vibe convivial - rather than the dour suit wearers of Cooling's day, everyone seems to be having significantly more fun. Walking in on a recent weeknight, staff were all smiles, offers of a chilled tankard of Brooklyn Pilsner was welcome and the room seemed surprisingly bright and open. One can see how it naturally evolves throughout the day from breakfast through to a late supper (8.30am-midnight six days a week). Even the unmistakable sound of Cast's 'Guiding Star' on the soundsystem didn't diminish the loveliness.
Things start off brilliantly: the cocktails were far better than Brown's ever managed. This is more akin to a New York tavern than a homely British chain and the drinks are made as such, all under the watchful eye of Tony Vega. The Churchill Sour cocktail (Glenlivet Double Oak, fernet branca, foamer) and the ginger Club (Havana Club, lemongrass, grapefruit liqueur) both impressed and came with a fabulous chunk of blood orange. (I know cocktail lists are ripe for comedy I personally find the name ‘Bean Flicker’ a bit puerile). Bar snacks were moreish and magnificent - prawn popcorn with harissa mayo had the perfect level of spice and crunch while cheddar croquettes with parmesan custard formed some kind of terrific cheesy Inception.
Mains are dominated by expertly sourced meat from Hertfordshire (Huntsham Court Farm, the same supplier to the River Cafe and Le Gavroche) that really comes into its own on a Sunday roast. Seafood is a strength which will be helpful for all those having a business lunch from nearby Vogue House. Head Chef Jon Grimes feels like the most natural fit after his time cooking everywhere from Aqua to Gilgamesh. Seared scallops with samphire and a fragile squid ink crisp made a delightful starter while heritage tomato Caprese impressed with the quality of the cheese and the freshness of the fruit. The signature fish pie, with chunks of haddock, smoked salmon and halibut, topped with piped gratinated mustard mash topping was a glorious standout. The Te Mama lamb rack - from New Zealand, but effectively the sheepy equivalent of Waygu - was pink fleshy perfection accompanied by charred artichokes and banana crisp. Our bottle of white wine, Colle Stefano Verdicchio Di Matelica 2021, was a classic and crisp shot of Italian sunshine.
Service is terrific - particularly general manager Denva Pierre who, having worked for Gordon Ramsay in the past, is clearly well versed at dealing with demanding diners. It’s the kind of place genuinely keen to make you comfortable. Desert came in the form of a unimprovable British apple crumble with custard and what was originally a pavola that had hastily been rendered into an Eton mess. All in all, Maddox Tavern is a welcome addition to Mayfair and a fine way to spend the day, whether you join for breakfast, lunch or dinner. And the dress code, from the looks of things? Anything but a suit.