When The Wigmore first opened in 2017, much was made of the fact that it was both a traditional pub that happened to serve good food, as though the London gastropub movement, exemplified by The Eagle Pub in Farringdon, hadn’t happened 26 years earlier. So as the critics tackled the bold concept of rarefied scotch eggs and the idea that Michel Roux (a Frenchman!) could run a traditional British boozer, it remained something of an enigma. Really, could a pub near Oxford Circus, inside The Langham (Lady Gaga’s hotel of choice), offer both good food and a decent ale selection?
The answer, it turns out, is a resounding yes. The best news is that unlike so many restaurants during lockdown, this is a pub that has gone from strength to strength. With Roux at the Landau temporarily closed and Roux at Parliament Square permanently shuttered, it is important to support one of the leading lights in the city's food scene while you still can (Le Gavroche, naturally, will outlast us all). On a recent Tuesday evening, The Wigmore was absolutely bursting at 6.30pm: just the full-on joyous cacophony of chatting, drinking, dating and debriefing. After so long it was a genuine thrill to weave my way into the emerald-coloured snug dining area at the back.
It’s a treat to see how the two very different sides combine: high end restaurant touches within a relaxed pub setting. Pints hover around the £5 mark, which given the fact that the £7.10 pint is unfortunately becoming more common across the capital, is well worth remembering. Cocktails are better than you’d expect - particularly the ‘Tankyard’, inspired by conscription and served in the signature vessel filled with Bombay Sapphire, Chartreuse Jaune and Wigmore Saison (perhaps we didn’t need to see it being poured from a bottle but one bitter fortifying sip later, you’ll fancy a second).
The starters were terrific - the “XXL footlong toastie”, with three cheeses (Montgomery cheddar, Ogleshield and raclette) was - despite the server’s concerned looks - not some sort of Man Versus Food challenge but rather a delicious sharing snack - the kind of delightful moreish magnificence that one might experience after a long walk in the Lake District. The much-discussed masala scotch eggs resembled tiny tasty Critters while the cock crab on buttered crumpets were little akin to Sebastian from The Little Mermaid tap dancing on a bijou breakfast.
Mains were comfort food par excellence. The beautifully buffed "Chicken Kyiv pie" (including a £5 donation to the Red Cross in Ukraine) tasted splendid with the perfect level of ooze and a proper pie crust beneath as well as on top. It was accompanied by the kind of garlic mash that one suspects is at least 3000% butter. The cheeseburger was a carefully stacked triumph while chips had a pleasingly robust triple cooked crunch and came seasoned with Bloody Mary salt. From the beers, the IPA - both the Sirens Call IPA and the Verdant Written in Water were surprisingly elegant. Deserts, which have now been refined down to one single offering, were on the day of our visit a sublime banoffee sundae. The only duff note in the entire experience? Frankly I don’t believe calories belong on any menu, least of all one as exciting and enjoyable as this. I don't regret a single one.