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The Criterion (Restaurant)

Picture of The Criterion in West End, London

224 Piccadilly Circus, West End, London, W1J 9HP
Cuisine: European Average Price: £50.00
Tel: 020 7930 0488 | Email to The Criterion | Transport: Piccadilly Circus | Write review

The Criterion Review

Best for: Accessible aristocratic restaurant dining in the heart of the West End.

Great: Style; steak; and wine.

When I was a kid there was nothing like a trip to Piccadilly Circus. You had something to wow you on every corner, from the rows and rows of music at Tower Records to the arcades of the Trocadero and the bright lights beaming over Eros advertising Pepsi and McDonalds. It was where every French and German schoolkid simply had to go on their school exchange.

In recent years, however, I’ve been starting to worry that the aforementioned magic is being lost. Lillywhites is only a shell where once there stood a proud sports shop and the music giants Tower Records (and then Virgin Megastores) have fallen by the wayside. I decided it was for Fluid to sniff out Piccadilly’s dormant lustre.

What a relief then to step from a freezing winter’s night through revolving doors and into the Criterion, a restaurant full of gold and marble with ceilings worthy of a Viennese ballroom, immediately reassuring me that Piccadilly Circus still knows how to do classy with lashings of opulence. Remarkably it seems to have been restored with the care and attention worthy of the Mona Lisa and the distinctly palatial feel to the place has been retained thanks to its mirrored walls and sweeping arches. I rather felt as if I should have been wearing a large top hat, although the post-dinner brandy somewhat made up for it.

But I needed more to stoke my imagination as I dined. Whom could I close my eyes and dream of sitting next to? I soon discovered it was a formidable list: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle first imagined the meeting between Dr. Watson and Sherlock Holmes here; and it was also frequented by such luminaries as H.G. Wells, David Lloyd George, Winston Churchill and Bertrand Russell. It was like the ‘celebrity dinner party game’ all under the same roof.

But history ain’t the same as fusty. There was a good spread of customers (ranging in age) and attentive staff managed to get just the right balance of being on hand when needed but not constantly interrupting my (ahem) highbrow conversation. It wasn’t just for my benefit either: I could see all the staff being friendly, from those taking coats to those topping up water and bread.

On the key matter of food, Head Chef Matthew Foxon also has a tough act to follow as the Criterion was once the stomping ground of Marco Pierre White. Yet he has laid solid foundations by making sure what he buys in is darn good. That means the restaurant’s fish is caught and delivered every day from Looe in Cornwall while its lamb and pork arrives direct from Cumbria. And while we’re on the best of British, Criterion also managed to get delightfully slippery Maldon oysters and an Isle of Man king scallop vying for attention among the starters.

But could this swankiness continue? Indeed it could. I ordered ostrich (no, I haven’t had it recently either) especially cooked tender and also tried a delectable Galloway fillet steak with creamy foie gras; a taste combination to savour.

I was briefly brought back down to earth by the desserts, where the Opera cake was on the dry side and the Malva pudding, while delicious, could have been a little more sizeable. But with my short attention span it took only moments to distract me with an awesome wine list: there was an excellent spread of varietals from across nations and knowledgeable staff were on hand with plenty of advice on what would work. Keep an eye out for a cracking bottle of red called ‘The Pepper Pot’ from Stellenbosch in South Africa which was full-bodied and feisty.

Criterion is a great place to come if you’re in the mood to feel classy. But perhaps the desire for understated cool is the explanation for its Achilles Heel: the need for a bigger sign outside. I can’t be the only one who has walked past the front door blissfully unaware of this trendy throwback of an eaterie. It’s a commendable slice of fine dining in central London and more people should really know about it. Perhaps we’ll get Eros to put in a good word while he’s lining up that arrow.
...read more

Customer Reviews for The Criterion

Average (based on 8 votes): 8 Atmosphere: Value: Quality:

The following customer reviews are not endorsed by Fluid London and are simply those of users who wish to publish their independent experiences of The Criterion.

“I picked this restaurant on a whim when going to the theatre one evening and I made a brilliant choice. The food and service was exceptional. The only downside to the whole evening was that we were only able to spend a couple of hours there before heading for the theatre. Rest assured I will be going there again when I have plenty of time to sit back and relax.”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
Simon McWhinnie, London (6 years 11 months 2 days ago)

“Faultless service, friendly and professional, nothing was too much trouble. Delicious beautifully presented food, we had the pre-theatre 3 course menu which was extremely good value. And the most stunning interior with large tables and comfortable seating. Thank you for a wonderful evening very much appreciated.”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
J.Ferdinand, London (8 years 2 months 23 days ago)

“I was told to try this restaurant out by one of my co workers and it is every thing he said it is. The food and service was top notch. Well be back...”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
M J Fox, london (8 years 5 months 5 days ago)

Show all user reviews for The Criterion

“Magnificent restaurant. Beautiful ceiling. Most importantly - exceptional food and friendliest service. Well worth it.”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
AForsyth, London (8 years 5 months 21 days ago)

“Stunning, very few restaurants seem to be able to get all areas right but the newly re-opened Criterion does it in abundance, a very different experience from a visit last year which was more a lesson in how to get things wrong. Food incredible, service flawless and venue arguably the most beautiful in London.”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
Simon Collins, London (8 years 5 months 23 days ago)

“Never used to like this restaurant, mainly for poor food and rude service, but my friend dragged me in. Thankfully to him, I have realised what I have been missing all this time. Not sure when it was reopened under new owners, but what a place! The food itself leaves a wow factor. Very friendly service, leaves you satisfied and happy at the end of the meal. Really recommend it! And potentially the best restaurant in London.”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
AForsyth, London (8 years 6 months 1 days ago)

“After recently returning to The Criterion after a number of years, I was unexpectedly surprised. Recently refurbished and no longer under the helm of Marco Pierre White the Criterion still denotes an amazing experience. Under the neo-Byzantine gold leaf ceiling and the marble walls you can enjoy the refreshing new menu. From home-made bread and butter to fresh UK oysters and one of their signiture dishes of Pork cooked three ways. Will be certainly recommending this restaurant which is one of London's landmarks. Their pre-post theatre menu is certainly worth the money starting at £18 for 2 courses.”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
SallyS, London (8 years 6 months 4 days ago)

“After recently revisiting this stunning restaurant after a number of years, I have learnt that Marco Pierre White is no longer in ownership and has recently been refurbished, rebranded with a new chef. Modern European cuisine suitably fits this georgous venue and is definately worth it's weight in gold when it comes to the pre-theatre menu for £18.00 for 2 courses you cannot go wrong. Highly recommended and it was memorable visit from the welcome, food, service and the smiles.”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
Criterion, London (8 years 6 months 5 days ago)

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Additional Information

  • Cuisine Type: European
  • Average Price: £50.00
  • Dress Code: Smart but Casual
  • Group: Vox Restaurants

The Criterion Food & Drinks

  • Cuisine Type: European
  • Average Price: £50.00

The Criterion Food Menu

The tantalising new menu can be termed as Modern European/Contemporary English and has signiture dishes of Pork (Gloucester Old Spot) cooked three ways and a selection of seafood which is freshly sourced each day. The chef also believes in preparing food on site such as home made bread, butter and ice cream. Afternoon tea under the neo-Byzantine interior is one to be experienced, as is the pre-theatre menu starting from £18.00 for two courses.

Updated 20/03/2012

The Criterion Drinks Menu

A range of mouth-watering cocktails can be enjoyed in the red velvet-decked bar. And the exceptional wine list starts from £17.00 per bottle.

Updated 10/06/2009

The Criterion Hire Details

Name: Criterion Restaurant
Type: Entire Venue
Days: Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday
Cost - Hire Fee: £ 0 / Min Bar Spend: £ 0
Options: Food Available, Seating Available,
DJ: None
Capacity: 150
Notes: Subject to a minimum spend which is based on the day of the week and time of year.

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Venue ID: 833

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"A truly appalling experience. Small, burnt portions lacking in flavour Went down the road afterwards for a curry" Which venue is this?

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