Le Caprice, still going strong after 32 years

London’s restaurant scene is on fire with the pace of new openings, but what of the stalwarts that have survived long beyond being the ‘Next Big Thing?’ Jane Duru sizes up whether Le Caprice, beloved hangout of ageing rock stars and Mayfair businessmen, has still got it after 32 years in the business.

First impressions

Le Caprice entranceAn unshowy entrance belies great food within
Le Caprice

I’d expected it to be grand and glitzy, its signage an unmissable beacon on the street. It is after all, no stranger to celebrity patronage, Pippa Middleton being one of the famous faces recently papped outside. But on approaching the restaurant, which sits on a quiet side street off screaming Piccadilly, I’m taken by just how, well, discreet, it is. Once through the revolving doors, it’s as you’d expect of most Mayfair establishments, the patrons mainly comprising a mixture of wealthy older couples and boozy Mayfair hedge funders well-versed in taking the soft power route to dealbreaking. 

Waiters work the room with easy efficiency, whilst the ebb and flow of familiar chatter fills the room; it feels smart but thankfully, not stuffy. The 1980s styling - hard edges, art deco mirrors, photos of famous patrons and polished chrome fittings – nods to a past heyday but there’s something endearing about the place’s refusal to march to the tune of changing fashions, like an older woman determined to grow old gracefully. It may have had a small refurbishment a couple of years ago but still, reassuringly, looks its age.

Ideal for…

Le Caprice dessert and barEnjoy drinks at the bar before your meal
Jane Duru / Le Caprice

Le Caprice will appeal to anyone who wants reliably good food in a smart but relaxed setting (though don’t think you’ll get away with jeans and Converse, it’s not that relaxed). Go for a celebratory treat or a boozy business lunch, it suits both equally well. The lively room means service, overseen by longtime maître d' Jesus Adorno, is warm and attentive, just the right side of fussy. Go often enough and the staff will make you feel like part of the club.

Best table?

Those hoping to see and be seen should pick a table in the centre of the L-shaped room or perch on a stool at the bar. If it’s a private power lunch you’re after, go for one of the booths in the back of the room.

The food

The lunch menu, although long, is full of dishes that will appeal to all dietary preferences. There’s lots of seafood here, but carnivores and vegetarians will find plenty to like.

We choose a tuna sashimi dish with shiso, ponzu dressing and wasabi, the blackened mackerel with shaved fennel and gooseberries. Whilst the mackerel and fennel combination registers as tasty, it’s eclipsed by the sashimi, which is excellent and makes me wish we’d ordered two. The lightly seared tuna is accompanied by fresh wasabi, which adds the right note of zing and heat. It’s so far removed from its cupboard-variety brethren I have trouble believing something so good could have spawned the nostril-burning other.

Our mains of monkfish with coco beans cooked with tomatoes and gremolata, and flat iron steak with onion puree prove equally excellent. The steak, rich and tender, is declared to be much better than that recently sampled in a trendier establishment. The decent chunk of monkfish on its bed of beans is cooked to perfection, its sweet, meaty texture well complemented by the chalkiness of the beans in their tomato sauce. Slightly flabby fries are the only let down.

Le Caprice main courseLeft, steak with onion puree; right, monkfish with coco beans
Jane Duru

We decide, against our better judgements, to embark on dessert, choosing a cherry pie with ripple ice cream and the Cru Virunga chocolate and strawberry smash bombe. The latter looks like a gold dusted ball of chocolate, to be broken by pouring warm strawberry sauce. Not my bag, but I’m assured it’s hitting the right spot. My cherry pie oozes with saucy fruits, their natural sweetness kept in check with a tart after note and encased in buttery pastry.

It’s been accused of being unadventurous with its menu but when the classics are done this well, who cares? Le Caprice has skipped the pretentious bells and whistles for comfort and familiarity, and it works.


Evening diners at Le Caprice can look forward to performances from a live pianist, whilst from 29 September, Sunday diners can enjoy monthly Le Caprice Jazz Sessions all year round; expect performances from Theo Jackson and Yolanda Brown, amongst others.


Le Caprice
Arlington House  
Arlington St
Tel: 020 7629 2239
Website: www.le-caprice.co.uk
Price: Lunch from £21.75 for two courses. An average meal for two, including wine, water and service costs about £150.

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