The news that Belgravia favourite The Pantechnicon had changed its name to The Alfred Tennyson prompted a revisit. Open in 2008, The Alfred Tennyson is part of the ever-growing Cubitt House group that includes other beloved neighbourhood haunts The Thomas Cubitt and The Orange, along with The Grazing Goat in Marylebone. All are former pubs that have been transformed into bars with dining rooms, and sometimes even with drawing rooms and bedrooms. This property has been a roaring success, quickly establishing itself as a popular spot with businesses, embassies and residents alike. Its home, Motcomb Street, is an idyllic escape from the bustle of Knightsbridge and Belgrave Square. More of a mews than a street, Motcomb Street is filled with charming coffee shops and boutiques.
On arrival, we are reassured to see the place is as buzzing as ever, and that the interior design and management remain unchanged. Set over four floors, The Alfred Tennyson is beautifully designed. Guests can eat informally in the ground floor bar (no bookings) or in the dining room on the first floor. We were booked in upstairs where lunch or dinner offers a clubby feel with its comfortable leather chairs and calm atmosphere. (The Dining Room, Boardroom and Loft bar are also available for private functions or special occasions.)
Our brilliant waiter Marton said the menu was new, but with plenty of improvements on old favourites to keep the locals happy. I tried the new recipe salt and pepper squid with chilli aioli. Crunchier and spicier than ever, it was a triumph. My husband opted for the Scottish scallops with cauliflower, girolles, truffle dressing and crispy pancetta. The perfectly cooked scallops were deliciously offset by the other ingredients on the plate.
The main courses can be as casual as fish and chips, or as refined as chateaubriand for two. My husband went for the 400g Hampshire pork Tomahawk – his eyes lit up when he saw the vast slab of meat with a long slew of crackling. I had dry-aged Millers of Speyside beef fillet that was cooked to perfection, and tasted even better next to the truffle mash and side of sautéed kale, red onions and pine nuts. The latter was so good that I have plans to recreate this dish at home. His pork and Madeira jus was demolished in no time, along with a side of perfect fries.
Incredibly full, I couldn’t manage a pudding, but in the interests of getting the job done, I stoically ordered a selection of cheese, served with quince, grapes and oatcakes. Delicious. My husband’s banana tapioca caramel chocolate concoction was quickly destroyed, so there was success in that corner too.
The Alfred Tennyson seems as delicious and packed with people as ever. So why the name change? I’m told that during his later years, Alfred Tennyson – national treasure and one of the country’s best-loved and respected Victorian poets – lived in Upper Belgrave Street, a few minutes walk away. Not only that, but the Cubitt House group will shortly be refurbishing the original Pantechnicon Building at 19 Motcomb Street – it will become a fashion emporium, with restaurant, bar and café. The name change was in order to avoid confusion between the two venues. It sounds like the group has much more to come. What this space…