Restaurant Review: Skylon, Royal Festival Hall, South Bank in London
Woven among the everyday chain restaurants that run along the Southbank is a stylish standout spot: Skylon, situated within the Royal Festival Hall with views over the Thames is a fine-dining restaurant, grill and bar which, on both occasions I have visited, has exceeded itself.
With its name taken from one of the original structures built for the 1951 Festival of Britain, Skylon is smart and suave with high ceilings and striking tall floral displays that are dressed around the glamorous centrally located bar, with the grill on one side and the restaurant on the other. Leading the way with a modern, European menu, Helena Puolakka (originally from Finland) has recently taken over as the Executive Chef at Skylon. Having previously worked with Pierre Koffmann, Pierre Gagnaire and Gordon Ramsay; this marks a return to the restaurant for Helena, from her six years spent at Skylon as Executive Chef in 2007.
Helena’s reinvented menu showcases her classic French training with fresh ingredients that create seasonally delicious dishes for lunch, dinner and weekend brunches. To start we order Dorset crab, with cucumber, lemon and a fennel crisp, hand dived scallops with cauliflower, a champagne velouté, cured var salmon with pickled cucumber, honey mustard dressing and a special of truffled cream of mushroom soup. Each are smartly presented and paired with recommended wines by the glass.
For the main courses follows a balanced collection of refined dishes from land and sea. Seared halibut with Atlantic prawns and tender leeks, a slow cooked partridge with king oyster, pumpkin, and crisp kale and a gorgeous 21oz Chateaubriand to share for two which comes with truffle pomme purée, and crisp shallots. These were also with paired wines by the glass from the helpful sommelier.
A menu inspired from growing up with the long Scandinavian summers in Finland, from a young age Helena would forage, fish and source ingredients from the land and sea. This inspired her to become the chef she is today, and this initial inspiration can be seen in the dishes on the menu at Skylon. Expertly paired with French training in Paris under Pierre Gagnaire at his three-Michelin-starred eatery, Pierre Gagnaire in Hotel Balzac – Helena’s wild and creative culinary style sits in harmony with her traditional French training.
Also acting as the Chef Patron at Aster restaurant in Victoria, Skylon is well worth a visit to try Helena’s menu. A South Bank favourite, amongst the hordes of tourists that meander on by, Skylon is a magnet for those who live and work in the city. A convenient and sophisticated destination for drinks and great food, it consistently doesn’t disappoint.
Address:Royal Festival Hall, London, SE1 8XX, skylon-restaurant.co.uk, 020 7654 7800