The Square was founded in the early 1990s by Phil Howard along with business partner Nigel Platts-Martin, and under his stewardship gained two Michelin stars and a reputation for consistent and accomplished cuisine. Following the chef’s departure in 2016 to set up his latest project Elystan Street, the restaurant was taken under the wing of another titan of the capital’s culinary world, Marlon Abela, the businessman behind other high-end Mayfair haunts including Umu and The Greenhouse. The latest figure to take the helm at the kitchen is Clément Leroy, who comes with quite the pedigree, having gained a Michelin star during his tenure at Guy Savoy’s L’Etoile sur Mer and who follows on from the position of executive chef at Auberge du Jeu de Paume in Chantilly.
Along with the exit of Howard came an overhaul of the interior. Exposed concrete walls, metal fittings and a striking piece of conceptual sculpture at the centre of the dining room lend an industrial and contemporary edge befitting its location in the heart of Mayfair’s art district. Despite these touches it is a resolutely formal and fine-dining affair, an atmosphere borne both by the attentive service and the menu.
Originally from Romans-sur-Isère in southern France, Leroy brings an elegant and modern touch to the country’s traditional cuisine. This manifests itself in dishes light on cream and butter, instead relying on the quality of produce and looking beyond meat and fish to ensure all ingredients on the plate sing. When Brummell visits, we try the tasting menu, beginning with Cornish mackerel on a bed of mackerel jelly and lightly adorned with pink radish and a smattering of green leek ‘snow’, which epitomises this delicate approach. It continues across the seafood dishes, which see an Orkney scallop paired with a moreish, earthy hazelnut and coffee crumb, later followed by a John Dory dish where the soft, flaky fish, topped with perfect circles of truffle, is almost outperformed by the vibrancy of the bed of garden peas on which it sits. A course of Leroy’s “childhood ravioli” takes the form of a tangy parcel of goat’s cheese, adorned with morels and bathing in a subtle chervil broth, while the only meat main, a morsel of Herdwick lamb, perhaps misses the same level of flavoursome punch of what’s come before.
A trio of desserts provides a show-stopping finale, prepared by Leroy’s wife, pastry chef Aya Tamura. The waiter proudly wafts a salt-crusted pineapple in front of the table before it remerges from the kitchen – albeit in a far more petite form – in a pool of caramel with a hint of miso to take off the sweet edge. A plate of chocolate reinterpreted multiple ways – in fragments of moist cake, mousse and tuile – provides an indulgent hit, underscored by just a hint of herbaceous red shiso. It is the final of the three that proves the unexpected success of the meal, however, which sees soft segments of succulent grapefruit sat on a bed of grated sweet potato and topped with an impossibly delicate square of honeycomb-shaped sugarwork. A trolley of picture-perfect mini choux buns and bite-sized financier cakes follows, along with a small sharing bar of dark chocolate complete with a slightly gratuitous hammer, which if nothing else provides some light evening entertainment trying to avoid sending shards across the dining room.
The tasting menu is £110 per person, with an additional £70 with wine pairing.
With a serious menu in a setting to match, Leroy has put his own stamp on this iconic London destination.
The Square, 6-10 Bruton Street, Mayfair, London W1J 6PU; squarerestaurant.com