“Spring is light and breezy, embracing all the loveliness of a period building without slavishly bowing to heritage or giving over to historical heaviness.”
Too girly. When London’s Spring restaurant first opened at the end of 2014 it attracted a fair whack of criticism. Not especially about the menu, the plating of the food, the professionalism of its front of house or the quality of the produce. This criticism had a gender bias. Spring was accused of being “too girly”.
Camilla Long wrote a particularly searing, catty review for the food and drink section of The Sunday Times. It gave her fabulous engagement rates on her social media platforms as hundreds of mini-me twitter followers flounced off in a huff to ‘cancel our booking’; so hurt were they at what Camilla had suffered.
Baa. Baa. Baaaa.
From this you might imagine Spring has been decorated by a band of 4 year old ‘Frozen’ fans or a clutch of doiley-loving, tea-swilling Nanas. But no, Skye Gyngell’s restaurant is stunning. Elegant. Sophisticated. Alive.
The restaurant is in the New Wing of the grandly regal Somerset House. If we’re going to get all gendered about it, Somerset House is, like most buildings of the period, very masculine. It’s been the home to both royalty and the tax department; neither entity could ever accuse of being girly. But Spring’s décor doesn’t jar with this or strike a discordant note. It is light and breezy, embracing all the loveliness of a period building without slavishly bowing to heritage or giving over to historical heaviness. There is much glass and velvet and leather, but they are all in gentle hues allowing you to breathe and immerse yourself in an experience of luxury delivered with a feather-light touch.
The food is assured but not fussy. Excellent produce is treated inventively but respectfully. The staff are amazingly well informed and pass this on to diners in a gentle way; neither being patronising nor your new best friend. Somehow they manage to hit exactly the right note of being knowledgeable and helpful; friendly but not cloying. I’m not sure how many of them are happy in their nautical uniforms, but this is a minor niggle. They appear confident and are the consummate hosts.
During lunch service the space feels posh but casual, which is a perfect lunchtime combination. I love that you can really examine every aspect of the contemporary art, the extensive marble bar and the vases full of cherry blossom. At night the space comes over all dreamy and billowy. The evenings don’t lend themselves to deconstructing the elements; the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and you should just indulge in the Gestalt experience.
Spring is not inexpensive dining and best reserved for the ‘special occasion’ splash. But if you want to be transported ‘elsewhere’ both gastronomically and aesthetically then this ‘girly’ space is well worth the pennies.
London, UK WC2R 1LA