In fairness it had been a while since I last visited The Set and, although a fan, the bill definitely tips the higher end of the scale so doesn’t tend to be a restaurant I frequent. A lot has changed since my last visit – not so much with The Set itself as the restaurant concept remains a massive hit and from what I hear is fully booked most of the time – but more so with the other areas of the venue.
The Set (which for those who aren’t familiar is based at The Artist Residence on Regency Square) has now taken over entire food and beverage operation for the hotel, launching a new seasonally-focused cocktail lounge The Fix (formally The Cocktail Shack) and a new more casual dining area at the front of the restaurant which is now to be known as The Set Bar (Formally The Set Cafe).
I have to be honest that I have always loved The Cocktail Shack so prior to my visit I was a little disappointed to hear the concept had changed – but I have to admit that if I was going in with a new pair of eyes, The Fix is right up my street. The concept is closely connected to the ethos of the restaurant serving a pared-back menu, using seasonal ingredients and where possible ingredients that also feature on The Set menu to minimise waste.
The ambience is relaxed and the staff friendly and chatty as we are directed to the small selection of cocktails featured on a blackboard on the wall.
In the spirit of things I opt for the carrot sour which combines fresh carrot juice, citrus, egg white, cinnamon and rum – although relatively tasty I would probably still opt for a more traditional sour where given the option. My partner Natalie goes for a Big Apple: a concoction of sage, apple, celery and bourbon which is served in a martini style glass and is again very interesting but not necessarily something I would go for again.
We get chatting to the bar manager who is incredibly lovely and he whips us up a sample of a new cocktail special of banana infused Monkey Shoulder rum and almond milk which is by far my favourite of the three.
After a long day at work the cocktails are most definitely doing their job, so we decide best to head over to The Set Bar in search of food.
The atmosphere is immediately inviting – low lighting, good music and busy as expected for a Thursday evening. I was immediately sold on the concept of ‘tapas-style small plates’ with charcuterie from Kent-based Moons Green Farm and cheeses from Neal’s Yard Dairy. Our waitress was friendly and helpful recommending us some of her favourites from the menu.
We kick off with some olives, sourdough bread with ‘whipped butter’ and oysters with a pozu dressing. On the recommendation of our waitress we try some of the more unconventional charcuterie options of boozy rabbit and lamb with preserved lemon along with some taste size portions of Mrs Bell’s blue and the camembert-style Tunworth cheese. We devour our cold plates with relish and everything is as delicious as we could of wished and well matched by a glass of French Burgundy (£9) for me and a glass of French Marbec (£9) for Natalie.
Although a great sign, I struggle with deciding on hot options as everything sounds so divine. In the end we go for some honeyed Jerusalem artichokes served with a horseradish cream, the braised pig cheeks which are served with hummus, and a squid ink bun packed with crispy squid and wild garlic aioli.
I can’t resist ordering some of the local Alexander buds with hollandaise to round off the meal – a delight I’ve never tried before but will certainly be trying again. They have a slightly bitter, hoppy flavour which goes perfectly with the unctuous hollandaise. The plates of pig cheeks and artichokes are the stars of the show – beautifully cooked and well balanced by relatively unusual pairings on their plates. The squid ink bun is super tasty, (I mean who doesn’t love crispy squid and aioli?), but less to write home about in terms of new flavour combinations.
All in all a wonderful evening, certainly a contender as a new favourite date night spot. Our bill came to just under £80 for the food and 2 glasses of wine each – not bad at all.