Whenever I happen to find myself in London, I eat at Rowley’s. It doesn’t matter if I’m in town for a just a night or spending the whole week for work, and it doesn’t matter if I’m travelling solo, with colleagues, or with family. I simply always end up at Rowley’s.
I was only about seven when I first visited, staying with my grandparents just around the corner at St James’s Square. I still remember the early summer evening, walking in between them, past the Red Lion pub (which has looked the same since 1821 – and remains a great place to kick off your evening) and onto Jermyn Street. Lined with shops selling the finest handmade shoes and long celebrated as the first resort of the urban dandy, the old street features two worthy traditional eating houses. Wiltons, at the historically more fashionable west end, and Rowley’s at the other – towards Piccadilly Circus.
There is nothing wrong with Wiltons, on the contrary it’s the slightly older and slightly finer establishment. But it’s also exactly this that makes me enjoy Rowley’s so much more. You see, Wiltons is where bankers, all dressed up and ready to impress, take their clients to wash down a few oysters. Rowley’s, on the other hand, is a completely different matter. Occupying the site of a butcher’s shop dating back to 1790, it’s where you take your family to enjoy a good meal, make a mess, and still get out with a little bit of your m
This is, essentially, a steak and chips joint – one that has has been artfully lifted, without fuss or pretence, to magnificent standards. To me, and pretty much any carnivore, this is as good as it gets. And even if you can start off with other things, such as the salmon (which is sublime) this place is, and has always been, about the meat. The entrecote (my favourite) is supplied by Lake District farmers, and comes served in a chafing dish atop a spirit lamp, the meat adorned in a mouthwatering bubbling Roquefort butter sauce. The chips, not to be forgotten, are utterly delicious. Slender, curved and cooked to perfection, they are supplied generously (unlimited according to staff) and come served with a wide selection of sauces and mustards.
Always full, this place is crammed with junior bankers for lunch and, later in the evening, calmly populated by big families and older grey-haired couples. The interior is comfortable and homey, featuring big mirrors and white tiles. The wooden stairs leading down to the bathroom feel like they must have been around since the old butcher’s days (which is especially scary after all those fries and a few glasses of wine).
It may not be entirely fair to compare Rowley’s with trendier restaurants, even if it is undoubtedly on par with newer meat specialists such as Hawksmoor or Tramshed. Sure, it’s a lot pricier than some, and definitely less cool than others. But then again, that’s not really the point. The thing about Rowley’s is that it’s just as cozy, charming, and mouthwateringly delicious, regardless if you’re the seven year old kid or the grandparent of seventy.
The Telegraph recently said that it may very well be the finest steak and chips joint in the land. Well, I’d go as far as saying it might be the best in the world.
ROWLEY’S RESTAURANT, 113 JERMYN STREET, ST JAMES’S, LONDON SW1, SW1Y 6HJ.
t: +44 (0) 207 930 2707