The Metro Restaurant and Bar, on Basil Street in Knightsbridge, is tucked away below pavement level, just a stone's throw from Harrods department store and offers the dining experience you would expect, to the Knightsbridge 'standard' - both in terms of the level of quality in the food and drink served and the stylish decor.
It is intimate yet welcoming, luxurious yet accessible. So why is it that we've never heard of it before? And how can so many people walk past without a second glance?
Admittedly, we had our reservations about The Metro because we were not sure what to expect. Having visited The Capital but seen The Metro boards outside we thought we were passing a little 'fast-food' bistro squashed in between two boutique hotels. Yet when we arrived, having descended down the stairs to what is for all intents and purposes the basement between two hotels, we were welcomed into a chic and inviting dining experience. Despite being below ground with no windows, the space felt open and fresh, appearing much larger due to some exceptionally well placed mirrors and expertly arranged dining furniture, with an open kitchen to add an intimate experience.
Kasia, our host for the evening, seated us and presented the menu where we discovered deliciously described dishes for an exceptionally reasonable price, considering the proximity to such a large luxury department store and the area of London we were visiting.
For Starters, we both ordered seafood; 'Peppered Squid' and 'Fish Cake'. For someone like myself, who at times can be wary of ordering seafood, I felt safe ordering the haddock fish cake because of where we were.
Being situated within The Levin Hotel and with sister hotel The Capital being home to Michelin starred restaurant 'Outlaw's at The Capital' (which boasts an ever changing array of unique dishes created using British seafood) The Metro is able to receive fresh fish and squid everyday to make up their menu.
I was not disappointed with the soft, perfectly seasoned fish, crisp breadcrumb coating and crisp, fresh salad that arrived. And delighted I had tried the seafood option.
However, the squid, on the other hand, is typically a dish I would avoid at all costs. Having never eaten squid before due to many tales of how rubbery a texture it has, I decided to try this starter, expecting to appreciate the flavour as a whole but accept that it's not for me. What I found instead was perfect bite-sized portions of squid which bore none of the horror stories I'd been told. Couple that with the lemon mayonnaise, in which you can taste the freshness and feel the bite of the lemon juice, and you have a seafood-phobic converted.
For our Main course we went with classic British dishes, which The Metro prides itself on. Steak and Chips (cooked medium rare, of course) and a Chicken Burger with Spiced Potato Wedges. The steak was good quality and cooked to perfection. The charcoaled edge of a flame-grilled steak takes some beating and we were not disappointed. Hidden within the accompanying salad was an inspired surprise; red wine soaked shallots, which with the slight sweetness of the shallots and the flavour of the wine left us searching for more as if they would be hidden in parts of the plate we could not see! Something we will certainly be trying to recreate at home.
The chicken burger was comfort food and gourmet all at once. Perfectly layered with salad and mayonnaise, it hit the spot without being a messy endeavour to eat it. The battered chicken was both fresh and crispy and the spiced potatoes wedges were fluffy and crunchy at the same time.
For Dessert, which we had foolishly considered skipping because we were so full, we chose the classic and often underwhelming Chocolate Torte. Served with vanilla ice cream, the torte had the rich, coating gooey-ness that we all expect, just without the heaviness that often becomes of the sponge. The ultimate indulgent desert, as it should be, it is not to be missed.
The other desert we opted for (after great deliberation) was the Cream Cheese Mousse with Apple Sorbet. I couldn't resist this unusual construction; of all the sorbets I've encountered, apple has most certainly not been one of them.
When it arrived was presented beautifully, with a sprinkling of crumble and small, sweet blackberries. In essence, this was a de-constructed apple and blackberry crumble. The mousse was rich, creamy and terribly addictive. The sorbet was soft and juicy, far from the clump of ice it could have been; the ice crystals in the sorbet were so small it was almost as if it was sitting like a drop of liquid above my mousse.
With our whole meal, which was fantastic enough on its own, we had a bottle of Levin Gamay 2011 red wine, which blew us both away. As the name suggests, the wine is produced by Mr David Levin, the proprietor and chairman of the Capital Group. While The Metro serves other wines, this is obviously part of their heritage and is given prime place on the drinks menu.
We chose the wine based on Kasia's recommendation, given our meal choices. The Gamay is a reasonably young wine, with a very fruity edge and it accompanied the meals as if they had been designed for each other. For a limited wine drinker I was surprised by how well this wine stood alone and paired with food. So well, in fact, that we couldn't leave without buying an extra bottle to take home. The other key point about this choice of wine is the price tag. We expected a wine of this calibre to be the kind your wallet runs from, yet it is extremely reasonable for the quality of its contents.
Before we left we couldn't resist a small rosé to finish, ahead of our Rosé Wine Round-Up that we have coming along in time for some Christmas selections. And again The Levin Rosé was on point. One you can drink without food, take along for a catch up with the girls or enjoy on a night in with a Rom-Com and a bar of chocolate!
So why, we asked, was this little slice of Knightsbridge, which out-priced some fine eateries in Surrey - and offered everything made fresh on the day - not booked up for weeks, or backed up with a queue out the door?
It seems that its strength is also its weakness. Being sub-level, it offers a unique dining experience away from the hustle and bustle of a tourist trap, whilst remaining in line with the luxury of the area. While all of this is true, the other side of the coin is, being so small tucked underneath and between two rather grand hotels with their own eateries, the general public will not see it due to the same fast paced hustle and bustle on the streets above. And perhaps those who have come to Harrods just for the experience, will assume that eating in the surrounding area will come with the luxury price tag too.'
For the ultimate in fine dining at an affordable price, make The Metro you're hidden treasure to share with friends - enjoy the amazing location that not everyone knows about yet. But do it quickly because it won't be a hidden treasure for long.
"Open from 7:30am until late each day, The Metro serves breakfast, lunch, afternoon teas and dinner. Our ever revolving menu is dictated by the seasons though always includes our classic favourites such as fish & chips and double baked cheese soufflé. The open kitchen adds to the informal atmosphere and focuses on using fresh English produce."
Lunch Set Menu; 2 courses for £14.00 or 3 for £18.00
Enjoy Happy Hour every week day between 5-7pm; two glasses of house wine and a bowl of nachos £8.00
Please call 020 7589 6286 to book a table or enquire about small group drinks or Christmas parties.
Private hire is available up to 40 guests.
Opening hours: Mon-Sat 7.30am - 10pm, Sun 7.30am - 5pm
Wine list is headed by the award winning Sauvignon Blanc from own vineyard, the Levin Estate in the Loire Valley.
Take a look at the menu on offer at www.thelevinhotel.co.uk/dining/
"Just around the corner from Harrods - it's the luxury you expect at the price you want".