Hotel Dining Recommendations

Sunday, September 7, 2014 1

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have tried to go to Barrafina, the ultra cool Spanish small plates no booking Soho restaurant, a few times  now, with no success. Last time I tried, it must have been about 5:45 on a Wednesday and I was told to expect a wait of about an hour. And no, I couldn’t come back in an hour, if I wanted my place in the queue, I had to stay in the queue. (the countless masses would kill for my place in the queue, was heavily implied in the waiter’s tone and arched eyebrow)

I chose not to and if I sound bitter it’s mostly because I feel they were quite rude to me, though I am still planning on getting there one day. It’s on my list. I have an ever growing list of places I’d like to try and after a quick peruse of this list, a worrying trend becomes apparent, most of these have adopted this ‘no bookings’ policy. Which is all well and good, but sometimes I just want to have a specific time and a place, where I can eat some good food with no hassle. And so if you are looking for the latest pop up that only has 3 tables, and two dishes made from the produce locally grown in the owner’ back garden, then I would advice you to stop reading right now. However, if you are looking for a nice place where you could take your parents for a good meal in lovely surroundings, then please carry on.

My secret weapon when it comes to a family visit or a last minute dinner reservations is hotel restaurants. London is full of hotels I can’t afford, with restaurants that I can. These are restaurants you could never find if you didn’t know about, which means that hotel guests aside they are rarely heaving, making them extremely convenient for a last minute booking. The surroundings are often lavish and the food can vary from pretty decent to amazing. There are often good set meals and it’s worth checking bookatable.com or opentable for any additional deals.

Thirty Six by Nigel Mendham at the Dukes Hotel

This is top of my list, it’s a three rosette restaurant that deserves it. The dining room is very light and airy, the service impeccable and the food beautifully presented and delicious. We had a three course set lunch, which included an amuse bouche between each course, which was completely unexpected and a lovely touch, not to mention very tasty. The desserts are to die for. If you want to be surrounded by hustle and bustle, this is not the place for you, as when we started our lunch we were the only people there, but if you want to take your time and enjoy your food, I would very much recommend it. We were there for a good few hours and felt welcome the entire time. It was a lovely experience and though I have an aim to go to new places as much as possible, this is a restaurant I cannot wait to repeat.

Brasserie Joel at the Park Plaza Hotel

Unlike the others on this list, the Brasserie Joel has modern even minimalist in decor and we were not the only diners there. It occupies a large space on the first floor of the Park Plaza, with a pleasantly high ceiling and round tables, nicely spaced apart. The service was excellent and the set menu included the Tuna Tartare starter, which was very good. They also offer a set lunch menu of exceptional value, that I have not yet tried, but it is on my before mentioned to do list.

Reform Social and Grill at the Mandeville Hotel

This is located just off Oxford Street, offering some peace after a hard day’s shopping. It’s got good, hearty food, very generous portions at very affordable prices. If you are looking for even more affordability, there is a bookatable deal for steak or lobster burger with chips and half a bottle of wine for £16, which I have tried and tested and would do so again. But whatever you do, you’ve got to leave some space for dessert, because all else aside, I’d recommend this place on the strength of its desert alone. It’s got great spin on childhood classics like the jam rolly polly and toffee apple cumble and everything comes with lots of custard. Real nice comfort food.

The Brasserie at the Charring Cross Hotel

I must have walked past Charring Cross station hundreds of times, not once looking up at the Charring Cross hotel. My brother found the Brasserie and yes, yet again that is where we took our parents. Trying to find the restaurant once you enter seems like an adventure and yet again it felt like we were the only guests, but the decor is lovely, the view from the terrace really very good and the food decent. After the craziness of the street below us, it felt like a retreat.

Al Fresco Dining in London

Sunday, August 3, 2014 1

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e have been having a rather prolonged and lovely summer this year. It’s been hot for so long that I’ve started almost taking it for granted now. There are a 100 articles out there about outdoor seating, rooftop bars and beer gardens, which is great, but the truth of the matter is that they are invariably incredibly crowded as everyone else has had the same idea. So you try to queue for the latest pop up, only to give up and head for the nearest green space where you find yourself a tiny spare bit of grass, bumping elbows with a sweaty stranger.

This happened to me last week when I met a friend after work, “the weather is lovely”, she said, “how about a rooftop bar?”. After some debate we settled on the One New Change Roof Terrace, due to its excellent view of St Paul’s Cathedral and a convenient location for us both. We got there around 6pm on a Wednesday afternoon, not exactly Saturday night, only to be faced with an extremely long queue of people waiting in front of the ground floor lift. “I wonder what is going on”, my friend said, “Must be some sort of event”.

I went to the front of the queue and asked a girl that somehow managed to pull off this season’s ubiquitous crop top flawlessly, what she is waiting for. She gave me a very unimpressed look, “The lift?” the ‘duh’ was silent, but heavily implied. “Ok,” I said, “but why?”

“To get on the roof!”

Yeah.

“Right, change of plans, methinks.” (I didn’t actually say methinks, does anyone ever say that out loud?!)

My friend and I had been to a Museum of London Lates event not too far back so it came to both of us, like an epiphany! The Museum of London’s forbidding looking concrete wall hides a secret garden and a restaurant with a number of outdoor tables overlooking the garden, and most importantly, space! It’s a corner of serenity amongst the vast glass buildings and serves large portions of comfort food, from lovely looking pizzas to the mac and cheese, which I picked.

(If there had been no tables, we would have then tried the Barbican’s outdoor space, which I love despite its concrete fountains and overpriced cakes.)

That same friend had previously introduced me to the wonders of Victoria Park. Now, I’d been there before, a couple of times, but without finding the lovely lake where you can hire a boat or a pedalo or sit in one of The Pavilion Cafe’s chairs overlooking the water. It’s a café that serves organic fare amongst beautiful surroundings. We turned up on a wonderfully sunny Sunday and were still able to grab two of the premium view seats, try that in Hyde Park! As this was a post lunch venture I only tried the peanut butter cookie and iced coffee, but am looking forward to returning soon to try the seriously good looking lunch or breakfast offerings.

Lunch: The Easy Way to Michelin Star Dining

Tuesday, July 29, 2014 0

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ntil very recently, I thought that Michelin Star dining was something out of most people’s reach, reserved just for special occasions. I eat out a lot (a lot, probably more than I should) but never thought I could afford those restaurants, never really looked into it.

Not long ago, I finally went to my first ever Michelin Star restaurant, Chapter One in Kent, a lovely airy space with white tablecloths and very attentive waiting staff. It was a sunny Sunday lunch and that’s really all there is to it, the secret that probably isn’t a secret for everyone else: lunch menus! Lunch menus are an awesome deal! Sure, they are from a reduced set meal, and you might not get all the fanfare of a Saturday night dinner, but it’s worth skipping out on a la carte to get a real bargain on some great food. The mains tend to be the least exiting for me, it’s all about the starters and deserts. Full disclosure: I’m a fish eating vegetarian with a sweet tooth. My meat eating dining companion (ok, my boyfriend, but that doesn’t really have the same ring to it) had a great looking starter which came in a jar with some smoke. Yeah, maybe should have made a note of its name. But, hey, new at this, will do so next time. But oh, the desert! Chocolate fondant with blood orange sorbet that was simply divine.

My second michelin star venture was soon after, for a friend’s birthday we went to Galvin La Chapelle for Sunday lunch with live Jazz. It was wonderful and for £29 for a three course meal, not exactly breaking the bank. It’s worth noting that it’s less for 3 courses than for a main from the main menu, and it was still great, the soup was especially delicious. Not realising I ordered a soup and expecting asparagus and cream, it was lovely (read: funny and embarrassing) to receive the two smallest asparagus pieces i’d ever seen with a dollop of cream on them and for the few seconds before they poured the soup on top, I thought I’d walked into a michelin star nightmare. Surely, I can’t be the only one that imagined you get a leaf in the middle of a large plate with a few drops of sauce artfully arranged around it?

I work around the corner from Arbutus and I’ve been meaning to go there for a while now as its Working Lunch seemed like an excellent idea. So, I took a slightly longer lunch break and went to check it out, it felt rather extravagant – a michelin starred lunch, but for £17.95 for two courses (though I went for 3…) it’s a fantastic deal. Once again special mention has to go to the soup, a cold carrot soup with blood orange, hazelnuts and olives, which sounds rather insane, but the blend of the different flavours and textures was simply divine.

That’s it so far, but hoping to add to this list very soon.