First Look: Arlington, St James’s, London
Published 13 March 2024

Arlington, St James's, London

While new restaurants open all the time in London, few are as significant as Arlington, Jeremy King’s first restaurant post his Corbin & King era.

Beneath a 1930s block of flats behind The Ritz hotel, the site had been home to a string of failed restaurants until 1947, when The Caprice (not Le Caprice) was opened by former maître d’ of The Ivy, Mario Gallati. The restaurant operated for 28 years before closing in 1975 – the same day Gallati passed away. A restaurant called Arlington followed in 1980 for a brief five months before Jeremy King and Chris Corbin – hailing from Joe Allen and Langan’s respectively – joined forces to open Le Caprice in 1981. This launch of an enormously successful partnership saw the duo go on to run some of the most popular restaurants in London including The Ivy, J Sheekey, The Wolseley and Brasserie Zédel.

The influence of Le Caprice is hard to overstate. Corbin and King – both restaurateurs, not chefs – served food that people wanted to eat. They introduced 1980s London to a newly relaxed dining environment with a focus on accessibility in both taste and cost. Their approach was egalitarian and filled the dining room with interesting people of all ages, careers and backgrounds. Fast forward to 2024 and the revolving doors are back in action, ushering in the next chapter.

First Look: Arlington, St James's, London
With a fresh edit, David Bailey’s black and white portraits still hang on the walls.

For those that knew Le Caprice, it doesn’t look like much has changed. Despite a lot of work behind the scenes and mirrors reinstated at the back of the bar (so counter diners can see who walks in), it’s the room people loved and remember, a place full of memories. With a fresh edit, David Bailey’s black and white portraits still hang on the walls. A pianist tickles the ivories of a black Yamaha in the evening (no DJs in sight) and perhaps the most famous feature, Jesus Adorno, is back greeting guests like old friends.

First Look: Arlington, St James's, London
Beer-battered haddock and chips at Arlington, St James's, London

The menu is features some Le Caprice classics from when Mark Hix was head chef – think bang bang chicken, crispy duck salad, excellent steak tartare – and is now overseen by Will Halsall previously of Joe Allen, The Ivy and Langan’s (a CV built for Arlington). Eggs Arlington and a chopped salad offer lighter options, or for a post-theatre snack consider the simple but perfectly executed Russell’s Caesar Salad named for the late Russell Norman who loved this dish at Le Caprice back in the day. A 12-strong line up of comforting mains like haddock and chips, chicken Milanese and grilled calf’s liver and bacon also includes a shepherd’s pie under the £20 mark. A dessert of Scandinavian iced berries with white chocolate sauce remains on the menu alongside chocolate mousse for two, treacle tart and rhubarb crumble.

A dessert of Scandinavian iced berries with white chocolate sauce at Arlington, St James's, London

During our early visits for lunch and dinner, we found Arlington full of people who have always dined and been loyal to Jeremy King’s restaurants: old school media types, producers, actors, a handful of suits and a smattering of restaurant critics to boot. There’s a feeling with Arlington that nothing has really changed yet the world is a very different place than in 1981. As King said, ‘I like to think of that old quote from The Leopard: “Everything must change for everything to remain the same”’.

WHERE 20 Arlington St, London SW1A 1RJ
WHEN Opened Monday 11th March 2024
OPEN Lunch and dinner Monday - Friday, brunch and dinner Saturday - Sunday
FOLLOW @arlingtonrestaurant
BOOK arlington.london

The Good Food Guide allows three to six months before anonymously inspecting a new restaurant. Look out for a full review coming soon.