King William’s Restaurant

Leiths is a large, slightly upscale catering firm founded by the superlative cookery writer Pru Leith. They have a rather good cookery school and a series of utterly brilliant “cookery bibles” which are among the most used cookbooks in our kitchen. I particularly recommend The Techniques Bible, The Cookery Bible and The Vegetarian Bible – none of these ever get properly put away in our house.

So it was with high hopes that we regarded the King William Restaurant in the undercroft beneath the stunning Painted Hall in the Old Royal Naval College. They have several outlets in the complex including the Pepys cafe in the Visitors Centre which sells very-slightly-above-average snacks and sarnies at rather-above-average prices.

It took us some time to get around to visiting the KW restaurant because it keeps extremely weird opening hours – no evenings at all, weekday and Sunday lunches only – and closed Saturday for the omnipresent wedding breakfasts that take place in the chapel. It was always closed whenever we passed by in a state of peckishness.

We finally went on a Sunday lunchtime when entertaining a friend from Holland. It’s always a bit of a worry going to somewhere new with people you don’t know too well, especially foreigners, but – well, frankly I was curious. The place is light and bright for an undercroft, painted white with large pillars surrounding a dancefloor which is permanently set up for weddings. The round tables covered in floor-length tablecloths, too, are very wedding-y and the jolly matrons in black uniform were suitably ‘up-market catering.’

And I guess that’s where the problem arises. Catering food is fine – and this is pretty reasonable catering quality food. My lobster bisque was tasty and there was plenty of it. The fishcakes were clearly home-made, if rather on the heavy side and my companion’s roast was really ok. The wine was perfectly adequate. Naturally our Dutch friend was too polite for her opinion to carry much weight. But we never got away from the feeling that we were just filling in while they waited for the next wedding. The friendly lady who served us told me that during the week they cater for tourist coach parties and I believed it. It was all – well – rather corporate.

Sadly the grand piano was silent in the corner. “Oh he went abroad a couple of months ago,” said our waitress on being asked where the promised classical pianist was. “We don’t know when he’s coming back.”

Now forgive me, but the door to this restaurant is OPPOSITE that of one of the top music colleges in London, Trinity School of Music. As you walk to the place the air is filled with the sound of top quality music students practising classical piano in little rehearsal rooms. Students are by their very nature always in need of a little beer money and performance experience. It wouldn’t take a genius to follow this one through to its logical conclusion, surely?

All in all, there is nothing spectacularly wrong with King William’s Restaurant. It’s just unexciting. A possible for rather formal visiting parents, perhaps, but nothing like it could be, given the location and the name…

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