Avenue's red-blooded menu brings a shot of Manhattan to St James
With its emphasis on great cuts of meat and perfect wine pairings, Avenue's updated approach to New York style is finally hitting the big time
Nestled amid the high end St James' boutiques and restaurants, it would be easy to see Avenue restaurant as yet another business dining experience. In fact, the New York-style restaurant has had something of a challenge shaking off that old guard reputation – until now.
With a recent revamp of Avenue's menu pulling focus back to the ingredients on offer – such as bold cuts of beef, fresh fish and classic New England appetizers – and the expansive wine list with a sommelier's choice of perfectly paired wines by the glass or bottle, as well as a new live music offering, Avenue is bucking the area's carefully staid reputation.
Arriving on a weeknight to the gentle tones of 'Georgia on my Mind' sung by the evening's jazz singer and pianist, Avenue's new long bar gave me a comfortable place to relax while waiting for my table. The entertainment was excellent, but always subtle enough not to distract my fellow diners, a seemingly easy mix of suited businessmen, couples dining and friends catching up.
Treated to a glass of champagne while our waiter took us through the menu options, we were soon joined by the venue's award-winning sommelier, Agustin Trapero who cheerfully advised us on how to best complement our choices. He was so knowledgeable about the wine list that ultimately, we both decided to leave our accompaniments in his hands – a choice I would highly recommend. >>
An opening shot of lobster bisque to start – small, briny and perfectly formed – ensured our palettes were ready for a meal wholly inspired by the U.S. Eastern seaboard. We opted for traditional choices – a marinated baked beetroot, goat's cheese and maple dressing for one and a duck liver and date terrine with apple chutney for the other – and were both delighted by the presentation of our food. Fresh, delicate and tasty, both dishes hit the spot – though never quite surprised.
Eager to test the restaurant's red-blooded reputation, we chose to share a Chateaubriand, accompanied with fresh Asian coleslaw, shiso béarnaise and a Jenga-like tower of fat chips. Paired with a plummy Chilean Armador Carmenere, this dish is surely the stand out cut on Avenue's menu. Perfectly cooked, it is a dish to lure diners back again and again.
The 112-cover restaurant boasts designer Russell Sage's glamorous Manhattan loft style décor, with the room centred around a stunning wine glass chandelier. It is a dramatic space, but feels effortless thanks to the cheerful, confident waiting staff. There was no sense of being rushed as we wobbled over whether to fit in dessert – of course we did, though I overestimated my own sweet tooth with a deliciously creamy matcha tea panna cotta, paired with a stunningly dry Brotherhood Blanc de Blanc New York champagne.
With a refined wine list, refurbished menu and more to come in the new year, it's safe to say that Avenue is comfortably bucked the business trend.