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The more glitzy, glass-walled buildings London seems to sprout, the less likely it seems you’ll know what it’s called, or what goes on inside. Take the geometric one that goes for your eyes when you look at it head on: nope. Or that new one that looks a bit like a Toblerone? Not that one either. But one of the few pieces of architecture that’s on the radar of locals, tourists and guide-browsers alike, is The Gherkin. This latticed-glass, pickle-shaped tower comes as one of the capital’s most famed, and though it now, literally, sits in the shadow of some of its neighbours, we don’t see this changing any time soon. Navigation apps are rendered obsolete on the approach: it’s one of the few landmarks where a glimpse of the curved windows peeking through the surrounding historic City buildings will lead you on your way. And once we’ve made the ascent, even the most pristinely pressed-suited business people can’t seem to resist the lure of a cheeky snap of The Gherkin’s vistas, nipping over to the glass between courses: ’cause even the locals can’t resist a from-height shot of the Big Smoke.
It’s a Wednesday evening when we head skywards for dinner at Helix, to the 37th floor and the pride of The Gherkin’s offering. The dining room is in the bit of the building that starts to narrow (something like the stalk of the pickle), so the dining room, while spacious, definitely isn’t sprawling (and makes sure every table has a cracker of a view). Black lacquer and dark wood, and those imposing crisscross windows are the only detail required for the magnificent backdrop beyond (save for some cute little table succulents and whopper flower displays as you enter). It may be ‘humpday’ but enthusiasm for Helix’s incredible British cooking and expertly matched wines (special shout out to the wonderfully charming and knowledgeable sommelier, Jean-Baptiste) is alive and well. There’s a gentle buzz in the room and every table is taken: it would be so easy for such a space to feel a little sterile, yet phones are a-snapping, cutlery clinking and glasses cheersing.
We start with pleasantly squidgy homemade bread and lashings of butter, and flutes of deliciously chilled Nytimbier sparkling wine (a sparkling Chardonnay from Sussex that’s known for its gorgeously apple-apricot finish).
Portland crab, celery, grapes, walnuts
Starter wise, there are dainty, gorgeously presented plates of crab with grape, candied walnuts and celery: the meaty, seaside pang offset with the sweet, blooming grapes, bitter celery and the crunch of walnuts.
Portwood Farm asparagus, whipped goat curd, peas
Perfectly in-season asparagus and peas were gorgeously crisp and light: the sort of mouthfuls that are so fresh they feel like they’re doing good things inside. This mixed dreamily with salty goats curd.
Rosemary roast Jerusalem artichokes
Lake District beef fillet, potato terrine, pepper purée, king oyster mushroom
Braised shoulder of Herdwick lamb, heritage carrots, spring green, buckwheat
For main, melt-in-the-mouth-tender meats included Lake District beef fillet with a potato terrine, lightly spiced pepper purée, and earthy oyster mushroom. Juicy Herdwick lamb with a thin sliver of flavoursome fat was offset with the crispness of toasted buckwheat, gently roasted carrots and green leaves that held a satisfying bite. This was all finished with a bowl of wholesome, earthy, comforting artichokes (we discussed how our pitiful attempts at cooking artichokes, which we thought weren’t too bad, were pretty laughable compared to these things).
Rum baba, blackberries, vanilla cream
Lemon tart, raspberry ripple ice cream
To finish, classics of rum baba and lemon tart offered the ultimate failsafe choices. The former consisted of light-as-air sponge with a jug of punchy neat-spirit drizzle, fat, juicy blackberries and smooth vanilla cream. A gently caramelised top on the tart gave way to a rich yet zesty lemon filling, light and crisp pastry and old-school raspberry ripple ice cream. We ended things with coffees at the peak of the tower, mulling over the ever changing skyline, but thankful that whatever happens, we’ll always be able to pick The Gherkin out in a crowd…
Jermyn Street is home to quintessential British artistry and craftmanship right in the heart of Piccadilly. Quite a fitting home for The Wellington Club, which boasts similar qualities itself. Finding The Wellington Club at first proves to be challenging, and you’ll have to go on using the good old address rather than rely on any shouty signs. It has a simple, white stone frontage which, given this belies the creativity below, acts as a visual palate cleanser.
Step down into the Mayfair basement and you’ll discover an interior that is entirely fitting for all its functions, striking the delicate balance between restaurant, bar and club. With their interior, The Wellington Club have called in no-other than Turner-prize winner Damien Hirst to add some flavour to the space. Hirst’s input includes the spray-paint designs on the walls – I fact-checked by watching a video of him doing so – and there’s a genuine replica of his skull above the bar. This mirror-embellished skull rotates like an unconventional disco ball, proving it’s not style over substance.
The artistry does not stop with the Wellington Club’s interior – they’ve embodied the principles of craftmanship and design within the food and drink as well. Sitting at the bar, the mixologist served us his personal creation the ‘White Scarlets’, a gin-based cocktail with egg-white & raspberry liqueur. I’m a seemingly rare person who knows sense and doesn’t like gin, but the mixologist was quick to demonstrate his White Scarlet works just as well with vodka. The White Scarlet is tangy and smooth, making it a great start to the evening.
Following these, we tried the Jermyn Street Punch – a drink akin to a strawberry daquiri – and the Simona 92. The Simona 92 was a smooth concoction championing lemongrass and gin flavours.
Whilst sipping these bespoke cocktails, we perused the menu. Aside from an extensive list of cuts of steak, The Wellington Lounge’s menu is focused and short, winning my trust as a restaurant that tries too much is seldom good. Their menu showcases brilliant pairings; who’d have thought a sweetcorn puree & dried ham would make perfect accompaniments for the sizeable scallops my partner enjoyed?
As for me, I began eating with the cauliflower. This humble brassica is certainly becoming the in-vogue vegetable of 2019 and the Wellington Club demonstrate why. The smokiness of the chargrilled cauliflower was paired with the sweetness and tang of sultanas & confit tomatoes.
Proceeding this, we ordered Picpoul De Pinet from one of the impeccably groomed waiters, to accompany our main courses. The monkfish for my partner and the ‘Taste of Asparagus’ for me. For anyone who loves asparagus as much as me and even those who don’t, the asparagus was something else. The Wellington club take their dish to the next level, by having not 1, not 2, but asparagus 3 ways. There was green asparagus cooked, green asparagus raw and white asparagus. Baby leaves were scattered over it, while dots of tomato fondue elegantly framed the dish and it was finished with shavings of truffle. Vegetarians are clearly not an afterthought at The Wellington Club.
While I savoured the asparagus, my boyfriend tucked into the monkfish. The white fish was perched atop a bed of celeriac and sautéed spinach. The monkfish was complemented with a chicken jus and finished with crispy bacon. Here, they’ve hit gold as pairing their fish & seafood with hints of meat simply enhances the fresh flavours from the sea.
Post-dinner, The Wellington Lounge’s offerings range from the helpful digestifs or sweeter cocktails to finish your meal. We chose the Rouge Crusta & a Pina Colada to accompany the spectacularly creative desserts. A tiramisu choux bun, oozed with lightly coffee-flavoured mousse, complete with a rich espresso truffle and balanced with the lightness of a mascarpone cremeux.
Meanwhile accompanying a rich chocolate ganache was a peanut butter mousse that tasted like what every other peanut butter is aspiring to be. Finished with pieces of honeycomb, this was the ultimate indulgent dish.
After desserts, we stepped down another level into the club part of the Wellington Club. Having had our taste buds pleased all evening, it was time to make our ears happy as the DJ spun the finest in disco and house music whilst sipping a margarita.
The craftmanship & curation that goes in to The Wellington Club’s food, drinks and atmosphere is faultless, making them a worthy resident of Jermyn Street. If that’s your bag then pick and choose which elements you want to indulge in or opt for an all-encompassing evening such as myself; they work as good individually as they do paired together.
The late Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld was said to have been compelled to change his lifestyle because of a desire to wear suits made by Dior designer Hedi Slimane. Such is the reach and power of the Dior label that the exhibit at the Victoria & Albert museum is booked for its entire run. Luckily, at the nearby Franklin hotel, you can taste or amplify your experience with their specially designed afternoon tea that draws inspiration from the great house of Dior.
In the modern décor of the franklin hotel, the setting for the afternoon tea is adorned with pink and white decorations, flowers scattered across the tables to reflect the delicacy and inspiration of Christian Dior. We were compelled to try the recommended cocktail, The Mitzvah. Vodka, Triple Sec, crème de violette, lemon juice, egg white, sugar syrup and blackberries combined to deliver a visually stunning cocktail, with a subtle lemon hit followed by a delicate aftertaste of violet.
Culinary Experience Inspired by V&A’s Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams – £40
The afternoon tea comprised a 2-stage dining experience. To begin, a savoury yet luxurious journey of flavours that connect to the identity of Christian Dior. The first stop, the “Jambon-Beurre”, a classic French ham and cheese sandwich. “The Granville” flan is a savoury flan that is strong in mushroom flavour, a foamy mouth feel, and a mild base that doesn’t detract from the filling.
Culinary Experience Inspired by V&A’s Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams – £40
My personal highlight was “The Train to Montecatini” – a reference to a rumour of Mr. Dior’s last meal – this is a choux pastry filled with foie gras and strawberry jam, that absolutely captures the delicacy and luxe of Dior – a rich, buttery, creamy foie gras that makes you feel devilish for consuming something so luxurious. The pastry was crisp and the jam complements the piece perfectly.
The “éclair cousu-main” was a cheese and truffle eclair that was a creamy affair with a hint of truffle to accentuate the robust cheese flavour. The final piece in this selection was the “The legacy of a Dreamer” – a reminder that Christian Dior offered a pairing of the unusual with the traditional. There was an egg, avocado & tomato sandwich which was delightful, and a smoked salmon sandwich with courgette and soy sauce. The courgette gives a nice crunch to the sandwich and the soy sauce elevates the smokiness of the salmon to new heights.
The second stage of the experience was a sweeter deal, with a selection of elegant and delicious desserts. “The J’adore” – a peanut sponge with a sprayable shot of Calvados was surprisingly light and creamy, with the peanuts bringing an exciting crunch to the ensemble.
The Pink House
“The Pink House” – A lemon pink macaron that invokes imagery of Dior’s childhood home in Normandy, was presented on a mini chair, and offered a beautiful, crisp shell that playfully gave way to a citrus punchiness that was a delightful delicacy.
Culinary Experience Inspired by V&A’s Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams – £40
The “Victoire” was a butter and nuts praline named after 2 important Victoire’s in Dior’s life. This was a decadent, rich treat, that made you feel like a winner when eating it. “The New Look” was a citrus & banana aspic which delivered an intensity with the citrus that stays with you throughout the portion. The banana is a welcome counter balance to this and provides a creamy mouth feel that completes a refreshing piece. “Le Montaigne” is a Normandy cream, white and milk chocolate cake that I must say was a real highlight. It’s so beautifully formed you’re able to distinguish the individual flavours of each element but also appreciate them come together in the same bite!
Finally, we were presented with “Backstage” – a selection of raspberry petits fours. A version with dark chocolate which combined the bitterness of the chocolate with the tartness of the raspberry nicely, the other version in my opinion offered a fresher and fleeting taste, which was welcome and ended the whole experience on a light and beautiful note.
Overall, the experience was wonderful. A lovely compliment to a day of immersing yourself in Christian Dior history, or as a separate excursion for a luxurious, well crafted afternoon tea experience, The Franklin delivers and builds upon a dream that was forged in a pastel-hued house in beautiful Normandy.
Mirror-gilled Angler is found on the buzzy seventh floor of the South Place Hotel, complete with a super-slick interior and an in-demand terrace. Having established itself a name as one of the best seafood restaurants in London, it’s no surprise that the very best produce is hauled in at Angler, foraged from coastlines and shores to develop skilled cookery with more than your average soul.
We were set to sample the tasting menu with matching wines to showcase the best signature dishes from executive chef, Gary Foulkes. To start with the snacks, there was a squid ink cracker with smoked cod’s roe, a marvellous truffle cheese gougere and tartlet with onion purée and chive foam. As some of the highlights of the evening, these amuse bouches had layers of flavour that perfectly matched one another and built with each taste.
Kicking off the rest of the proceedings was a showstopper of a starter. Topped with a translucent tangy apple gel sheet, the Dorset crab was elegant and light with a mild avocado purée. Nashi pear added sweetness that contrasted with the subtle fire of wasabi, and the dish was prettily finished with shiso flowers.
Throughout the evening, the impassioned sommelier provided excellent pairings. In addition, a Seedlip tasting vinegar mocktail cleverly cleansed the palate after each course. The first wine to try was a white Rivaner which was mineral yet full bodied with a fresh herb-like finish. The matching dish of red prawns came in the style of Italian crudo with Mediterranean touches, peppered with taramasalata and Greek basil. Pleasing crunch from micro croutons and the sour tang of blood orange gave texture and bite to the dish.
Enhanced with morels which had absorbed the buttery white wine garlic sauce, the Cornish squid was tender whilst maintaining a light touch with light morsels of surf clams.
Fresh yet indulgent, mackerel tartare had light oyster cream, apple sticks and a lemony crème fraiche running through. A Santorini white to match from the Argyros estate had fresh characteristics from its breezy volcanic climes.
Wild turbot was a healthy, cleansing dish, unseasoned and pure in a pool of smokey bonito dashi. Japanese mushrooms added an exotic edge to contrast with the other rich plates. The matching Pinot Blanc from Alsace had a complex character with a crisp and grassy finish to complement the dish.
Roast quail was quintessentially British yet combined with an Italian touch, featuring indulgent cannelloni stuffed with shredded quail and parmesan. The ingenious cauliflower cheese emulsion was rich in flavour but light in texture, while the whiskey velouté added richness along with the mild pear.
Bold in flavour with smoked anchovy, the 21-day aged Herdwick lamb was balanced by Swiss chard. The crispy artichoke was a clever pairing, cutting through the richness of the lamb well.
With tang-smacking sour notes, the Yorkshire rhubarb for dessert packed a punch as the perfect palate cleanser with Greek basil, a sable Breton biscuit base, and finished off with a dash of ginger beer. This was by far our favourite of the two desserts.
A pleasing mix of textures was to be found on the hazelnut chocolate pavé, featuring a crunchy chocolate brittle with dulce de leche ice cream, and coffee jelly. A nutty Puerto Fino sherry to match provided the right balance.
Immaculately beautiful petits fours came in the form of delightful handmade miso chocolate and a white chocolate yuzu truffle. Meanwhile the sweet and lightly sparkling brachetto negro wine from Piedmont had a light yet unashamedly strawberry finish. The evening had displayed a masterclass in technical cookery excellence and brilliant service standards, showing that this destination restaurant boasts appeal to a far wider audience than purely a City clientele. This was a delicious end to a wonderful tasting odyssey menu at Angler, bringing a high-end Michelin starred culinary haul to London.
Winter gardens are definitely a must this year, and I could not have found a better place to snuggle up for dinner than inamo Camden’s igloos. So the prospect of trying out inamo Camden’s 4-course tasting menu made me count down the hours and the minutes before I got there…
A private garden with 3 splendid pop-up igloos covered with fairy lights, furnished with sheepskin rugs, and fitted with floral decorations, creates the perfect atmosphere for a magical evening. And not a red nose in sight – inamo has your back with heaters to keep you warm and cosy.
Upon our arrival, we were welcomed with a bottle of Italian white wine – dry and fruity with a nice citrus finish. To start was a selection of Asian tapas, including Bang Bang Cauliflower, crispy baked cauliflower bites drizzled with an addictive bang bang sauce, and a creamy sweet and spicy chilli sauce.
Bang Bang Cauliflower & Chicken and Vegetable Gyoza
We also tried the Chicken and Vegetable Gyoza, which were soft and tender, and packed with flavour.
Trying the Scallop kataifi, may have been my first time trying kataifi that wasn’t the Greek kataifi dessert. The scallop was wrapped in kataifi with a succulent gold colour on the top, and the spicy dip, just left me speechless!
Once our appetizers were done we had an itch to see what cocktails were on offer. We decided on the Passionate Martini and the Tropical Tornado. As a self-proclaimed passion fruit aficionado, it’s usually my go-to cocktail, and with the stamp of, “an inamo favourite”, it was a no brainer. The Tropical Tornado was recommended to us by our waiter, comprising rum, guava, and you guessed it… passion fruit.
Passionate Martini & Tropical Tornado
Up next, our sushi extravaganza. First, the Red Dragon Roll, a vegetarian option encompassing red pepper revolving around crunchy cucumber and indulgent avocado. We thoroughly enjoyed this, a great take on the tempura shrimp also on offer.
Red Dragon Roll & Spicy Tuna Maki
If I had to eat one sushi for the rest of my life, it is a high possibility I would pick what came out next, the Spicy Tuna Maki, so simple yet so delicious. Tender tuna, crunchy cucumber and velvety avocado, topped with a mouth-watering piquant mayo.
And finally a 16-piece sashimi platter to top it all off. The rainbow Sashimi Platter was undeniably an incredible dish, comprising fresh tuna, Scottish salmon, English mackerel and glamorous barramundi. The subtle flavours, the delicate texture, and the vivid colours of our platter presented such an inimitable gastronomic experience.
Sizzling Black Pepper Fillet of Beef
The penultimate course was by far our favourite, Sizzling Black Pepper Fillet of Beef. I love the theatrics of how it was served, sizzling in a cast iron dish. Salty with a subtle peppery heat, tremendously soft beef, with a rich aroma emerging from the colourful peppers and spring onions. Who could resist? All this accompanied by the beloved sticky rice.
Tempura Banana Maki
With whatever space we had left after this enormous tasting menu, we were curious about dessert. A Tempura Banana Maki with a dash of melted chocolate, wrapped in coconut rice and showered in honey. What a nice dessert to end our first igloo experience!
If you are looking to ig-lose yourself with a marvellous 4-course tasting menu from the Far East, then inamo Camden is for you. I can guarantee you an astounding experience with a jam-packed meal, succulent sushi and enticing Asian tapas.
A short walk past the Jazz Café in Camden, you’ll find one of its newest restaurant arrivals: 40 Zero. The name’s not a Bret Easton Ellis reference, but a naming convention from the Above & Below restaurant group who aim to create ‘locals for the twenty first century’, and, despite having very recently been a squat, this local has been expertly renovated by big-shot designers Russell Sage Studios. The resulting dining room is an interesting mix of 90s nostalgia (I’m looking at you, bar made of cassette tapes) and nods to Camden’s urban landscape, with its graffiti scrawled concrete, UV loos and hanging greenery peppering the otherwise cosy room.
It’s the kind of place you could imagine the staff of ‘Empire Records’ hanging out after a shift, and funnily enough 40 Zero do a much-lauded 90s-themed brunch with bottomless bubbles and cocktails. The menu is, like Camden, a fusion of different cultures and cuisines, with dishes to suit all manner of diners from omnivores to vegans and everyone in between. So, after making our choices we settled into our booth and enjoyed some thoroughly original cocktails.
Original Cocktails – £12.95 each
On the left is the ‘Smoked Oaxacan Apple’; a long drink made with sage-infused mezcal alongside pineapple, apple and lime juice, cinnamon syrup and bitters. But on the right is Camden’s first cannabis cocktail called ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ complete with sparkling edible glitter on the rim. This seemingly innocuous pink cocktail packs a punch with CBD oil, gin and aperol with flavours of tangerine, marmalade and Himalayan salt.
Plancha sharer – £14.50
For starters we went for a sharing platter called the ‘Plancha sharer’ consisting of fritto misto (i.e. deep-fried seafood) served with aioli, griddled padrón peppers, 70s throwback devilled eggs and a decent portion of buttermilk fried chicken served with a wedge of lime and chilli mayonnaise.
Hari Lamb Pizza – from £9.50
Despite some initial reservations, our Italian waiter, who we thought would be the first person to be disparaging of a spiced lamb pizza, enthusiastically recommended it and even asked if we would like to ‘go saucy’ (add a drizzle of sauce over the top), ‘go filthy’ (add pulled pork) or ‘go balls deep’ (add beef n’duja meatballs). We obliged and went for the extra meatballs. The resulting pizza was an unexpectedly pleasant surprise, with a crispy base and generous toppings it soon became a collection of crumbs.
Market Salad – from £9
After the indulgent four cheese and hari lamb pizza, we decided that balance is everything and went for a virtuous market salad. A mix of leaves, avocado, egg, farro, tomato, piquillo peppers, carrots, almonds, toasted seeds, lemon and rapeseed oil dressing; it’s a far cry from the usual iceberg and cherry tomato pub basic and has enough interest that the extra halloumi was probably an extravagance (but one worth going for).
Side Dishes – from £3
40 Zero has some decent sides to augment your meal. We went for the cauliflower cheese, which had a good ratio of creamy melted cheese and crispy toasted cheese topping, and some piping hot skinny rosemary fries.
Classic Cocktails – £8.50
After mains, the barman emerged from the cassette tape bar and whipped up a couple of classic cocktails to help our food go down: an Old Fashioned and an Espresso Martini.
Camden Mess – £6
Our first dessert was a rough and ready remix of the classic Eton mess; the Camden mess. The Camden revision replaces the typical strawberries and cream with figs, berries, cream and chocolate drizzles on shards of meringue.
Catalan Cream – £4
To finish we had the Catalan cream, which is no ordinary crème brûlée, although it still retained the satisfying crack when breaking through the caramelised sugar top. Nevertheless, underneath the Catalan cream is incredibly light, almost like a panna cotta, and flavoured with refreshing blood orange.
On paper I was dubious about 40 Zero, but I’m happy to eat my words and admit that I was impressed by the place. The interior is pitched just right. There’s a nod to the nineties without it feeling like you’re with Andi Peters and Edd the duck in the broom cupboard. Similarly, it’s hard to find somewhere that caters for so many dietary requirements without the choices being uninteresting or compromising on food quality. So with it ticking all the boxes for a nice leisurely lunch, brunch or dinner, I have a feeling 40 Zero will become my go-to choice for meeting my argumentative group of vegan, vegetarian and carnivorous friends.
The Knightsbridge Lounge can be discovered in the centre of Belgravia, a short walk from Knightsbridge Underground Station. The lounge itself comprises many comfortable high-backed armchairs, and soft couches. Each table is set far enough apart from the ones around it to get a sense of privacy within your group – something that is so often not the case.
An impressive 18-foot teardrop chandelier cascades from the ceiling into the centre of the room, providing the space with a bright and airy feel. The lounge is adorned with tree motifs, which creates a calm and beautiful setting that feels as though you could be 100 miles away from busy central London – a perfect haven after a busy day shopping or touring the city. However, should guests wish to enjoy their afternoon tea in the bar area, this is also possible. Glasses of champagne were brought to our table as we perused the menu. The staff were very friendly and helpful, and our requests were met promptly using a service bell allowing us to call at our own convenience. Recommendations were both helpful and readily available with regards to the food and drinks options.
The Knightsbridge Lounge offers an extensive range of loose teas to tantalize your taste buds. For those that like home comforts, the traditional English breakfast tea has made the list. If you are feeling a little more adventurous then travel back in time to the true origins of tea and take your pick from the Oriental tea collection. The Knightsbridge Lounge doesn’t just stop here but suggests a Tisane range, which compromises an array of herbal and fruit infusions. If none of the above are your cup of tea then fear not, indulge in a hot chocolate by Rococo Chocolates with 8 different luxury beverages, you are sure to find one or 3 that take your fancy!
Afternoon tea stand
Head Chef, Gaurav Puri, has created a sandwich menu which offers an innovative twist on some of the classic flavours of an afternoon tea. The breads, which include brioche, white finger rolls, and black rye-bread, are baked on-site and feature delicious additions such as walnut and basil.
pastrami (with pea and asparagus)
Fillings include roast chicken (with celery, pickled walnuts, watercress, and apples), Scottish smoked salmon (with seaweed and yuzu mayonnaise), pastrami (with pea and asparagus), cream cheese (with cucumber and sun-dried tomato pesto), and duck egg served with cress. As evidenced by these flavour combinations, this afternoon tea challenges the everyday conceptions of what a ‘British’ sandwich may comprise of, and in doing so, creates a unique experience for visitors. It is clear from both the presentation and the quality of these fine sandwiches that a great deal of thought has been put into the ways in which the varying textures and palates complement one another. Aside from the delightful flavours, one of my favourite aspects of the sandwich course is how generous the portion sizes are. As somebody who greatly enjoys savoury food in a lead-up to indulging in sweet treats, it was refreshing to find that the sandwiches were just as filling as they were beautiful to look at. This, combined with a welcome break from the classic cucumber sandwich that so often frequents British afternoon tea, made for an impressive and memorable start to our dining experience.
One of the most important and iconic aspects of any afternoon tea is the scones – and the Knightsbridge Lounge did not disappoint with regards to this. We were presented with an assortment of butter milk scones, some plain and some packed with cranberries. These were, of course, accompanied by Devon clotted cream, alongside a homemade British strawberry jam and a more unique (but all-the-same delicious) chestnut marmalade.
top-tier cakes and pastries inspired by fragrance expert Rachel Vosper
In addition, fragrance-expert Rachel Vosper, a leading British candle maker, has inspired a range of top-tier cakes and pastries. Alongside the cakes, samples of candle wax were placed on our table which corresponded to each of the flavours encompassed within the pastries.
Collection of Scents Afternoon Tea by Rachel Vosper
Rachel Vosper encapsulates scents from each bottled fragrance, giving customers a unique afternoon tea experience inhabiting all your senses. Colourful and immaculately presented, we enjoyed a pink rose panna cotta with soft jelly centre and fresh raspberries, a white chocolate mousse with orange blossom honey and a caramelised orange tuile, a minted chocolate cream pastry with vanilla sponge, lime-crusted base and gold leaf, a roasted cinnamon éclair with freshly whipped cream and confit chestnuts, and a custard made with lemongrass, sponge cubes, pineapple dice, strawberry compote and organic jasmine tea jelly. Scents of rose, orange blossom, mint, cinnamon, and lemongrass from the candlewax enhanced these flavours, and to incorporate so directly our sense of smell alongside our sense of taste really did give this afternoon tea something extra special.
If you are looking to enjoy a high-end afternoon tea, particularly as a welcome break from a busy day spent in the capital or to celebrate a special event, then the Knightsbridge Lounge provides a delicious and memorable experience. Delectable, filling, and thoroughly Instagrammable, this is an afternoon tea with a difference. Highlights include the generously filled fine sandwiches, the perfectly carried out combination of scones, jam and cream, and the incorporation of scents into the top tier. In all, this venue should absolutely be on the list of any afternoon tea enthusiast.
It is grey, it is January. The holiday season is over, a long 5 weeks loom until this month will be over. Blue Monday is around the corner, and the jolly of the party season has evaporated. Lo & behold, Maskelyne & Cooke. The bar proving that the magic and sparkle has not all faded, as they offer an impressive cocktail menu, classic dishes and best of all, a magic show.
Maskelyne & Cooke, on the lower ground floor of Le Méridien Piccadilly, takes its name from 2 famed magicians, John Nevil Maskelyne and George Cooke, who performed their magic show in the West End for over 30 years. The bar has dark furnishings, with subtle references to the era of Maskelyne & Cooke’s show including Art Deco lamps and original framed advertising posters. The sophisticated mystique of Maskelyne & Cooke makes it the very inviting place to be refreshed from their menus; they have an impressive, magic-inspired cocktail menu coupled with classic dishes to enjoy.
Beginning our experience, we sank back in to the plush sofas whilst sipping on cocktails, and then we were impressed with the tricks of the in-house magician. In a time when what’s real and true is often undefined, it feels good to suspend one’s disbelief in an entirely innocent pursuit.
Accompanying the entertainment and cocktails, there is a short but well-executed menu of favourites such as prawn cocktail, beef Wellington or baked Camembert.
We began with the smoked salmon, which came as 2 enticing edible parcels encasing a bundle of tender prawns below. The finishing cucumber ribbons added a refreshing element to the fish.
The next delectable dish was similar to the salmon in its shape, but it hailed from the land instead of the sea. The beef Wellington consisted of buttery, soft pastry wrapped around rare beef fillet. A simple accompanying hollandaise sauce lent the dish a further buttery and acidic taste, making this a prize example of how to do this classic dish.
Meanwhile, there was another star of the show. This time in liquid form. My friend selected a ‘One Shilling’ cocktail, named after the admission fee for Maskelyne & Cooke’s show and complete with its own spectacle. The ‘One Shilling’ arrived centred in a bell jar, with a white fog collecting in the bottom of the glass. The bartender lifted the bell jar, for the fog to dissipate over our table. Very theatrical.
Meanwhile I opted for the Sharp and Flats cocktail, which borrows part of its name from Maskelyne’s book. The book is still revered as an excellent handbook for card tricks for magicians today. This concoction served in a dramatically tall martini glass aims to make just as an impression as its namesake. The delicate balance of sweet and sour makes it hard to forget.
Back to the food. Presented in a long cocktail glass, the prawn cocktail had succulent prawns and crab meat layered over crisp lettuce.
Up next were the chicken sliders. Three mini chicken fillets were perched on top of brioche buns, complete with tomato, lettuce and mayo. The mini burgers, like the other dishes, were simple yet stylish. The staff at Maskelyne & Cooke know there’s no need to over-complicate their food menu, when time-favoured classics make the perfect accompaniment for the many wonders of the bar, be that the spectacle of their cocktails, or their awe-inspiring illusions.
Can there be a more classically British way to spend an afternoon than with a traditional afternoon tea? Afternoon tea in London is still booming and doesn’t seem to be slowing down. A good few places now cater to those with dietary requirements and of course the seemingly ever rising number of vegetarian and vegans, but I must say this is one with a difference.
When I heard that La Suite West in Bayswater and their restaurant Café Forty One had relaunched a new fully vegan concept with something as rare as a French pâtisserie chef heading it all up, I couldn’t wait to visit.
The addition of head chef Clarisse Flon makes La Suite West and Café Forty One the very first in the capital to serve vegan French pâtisserie. The fact that they also aim for an ecological and sustainable approach in everything they do is just the icing on the (very delicious) cake.
Looking to cater to both vegans and non-vegans as well as those with allergies, Clarisse says about her style of cooking; “I realised no one was doing French pâtisserie and if I craved something delicate and more sophisticated surely other people did as well”
Alcohol free bubbles – Café Forty One
On arriving at the restaurant we were offered a glass of alcohol-free bubbles – a tasty way to start our afternoon, accompanied by our choice of luxury loose leaf tea.
Selection of sweet and savoury
In traditional British afternoon tea style, we were then presented with a beautiful 3-tier stand of sweet and savoury delights. Had I not known, I wouldn’t have guessed all this deliciousness was fully vegan – I don’t imagine anyone would feel this selection lacking in either taste or looks!
BLT and hummus and cucumber sandwich
True to tradition, the selection consisted of a mix of savoury and sweet. We decided to dig in to the savouries to start off our tea.
My meat-eating partner was particularly impressed with the smoked carrot “salmon” and cream cheese in a brioche roll. The carrot was smoky and creamy – very much reminiscent of its fishy counterpart. My favourite was probably the “BLT” sourdough sandwich made with vegan mayo and aubergine “bacon”.
Of course no tea is complete without some classic scones with cream, and these were another highlight. The scones came in a plain and a raisin variety, served with a lovely home made berry compote and clotted cream made from coconut.
The pâtisserie is made fresh and changes weekly, we had a chocolate cake with chocolate and vanilla crème pâtissière, a flaky and buttery apple and vanilla swirl, mini short bread with blackberries and a lovely moist carrot cake, all equally delicious.
The restaurant at La Suite West has seen a few different incarnations over the years but here I feel they have really hit home. The small restaurant space has had a recent refurb and feels light and airy, which is only enhanced further by the space leading out onto their leafy canopied patio – perfect for warmer times of the year.
Plant eaters will also be pleased to hear that in addition to patisserie, the restaurant also serves fully vegan breakfast and lunch and La Suite West aims to become the first fully vegan hotel in London.
Over all this is a lovely afternoon tea – a great treat for those with a dairy or gluten allergy, or anyone looking for some really delicious pâtisserie, vegan or not!
Café Forty One at La Suite West
La Suite West, 41-51 Inverness Terrace, London, W2 3JN
Drawing flocks of crowds from faithful regulars to far-flung destination travellers, the fine-tuned formula at Rock Star Sushi Bar is clearly ticking all the boxes, with a strong line in contemporary Japanese creations rooted in immaculate sourcing. A humble 12-seater restaurant, service is always on point in here with dedication, precision and passion in equal measure from Igor and his team. Who knew that this humble little Japanese outpost in the suburban depths of Colliers Wood would draw destination restaurant travellers from across the globe, holding pride of place as a consistent Tripadvisor sensation.
In this cosied-up setting with the twinkling glow of the fairy lights, we firstly tried the sparkling sake to pair with the contemporary Japanese dishes, which brought a mellow match of light and subtle bubbles.
Crowned with a shiso leaf, the seaweed salad had a freshly mixed texture which added piquancy to the bold and rich slices of wagyu beef. Fresh from the Kobe herd of Japan, the beautifully presented wagyu was certainly a premium dish, with exquisite marbling and a rounded flavour which you don’t usually get with native shore wagyu. The slab of pink Himalayan salt looked visually striking but also had the dual purpose of curing the beef and adding to the flavour.
Meanwhile, the rarely seen kampachi black cod was lightly scorched and had a feather-light texture, enhanced by the purple shiso and daikon fronds.
Fresh wasabi and sushi rolls
The freshly grated wasabi root is a real unique selling point, grated against the authentic shark’s skin paddle. This fresh wasabi was fresher, zestier and had a smoother, subtle taste which brought all of the Japanese flavours singing to life.
From the vibrantly named prawn tempura rock ‘n’ rolls section, there was a smorgasbord of delightful creations prepared for us. Favourites were the scorched salmon with avocado, torched garlic and teriyaki sauce. The torched salmon was an absolutely winning technique to feature; really accentuating a burnished flavour on the rich salmon.
Salmon sashimi and sushi rolls
Salmon sashimi is always a favourite of mine, and the impeccable freshness sourced from Japanese suppliers meant the sashimi grade fish was at its absolute prime. To complement, the ponzu-style dipping sauce was a delicious combination of citrussy yuzu, soy and sesame.
Salmon passion fruit sushi rolls
Straying from convention, cream cheese and passion fruit sauce was perhaps a steer towards a more Western palate and away for a traditional pairing. Immaculately presented, who wouldn’t be drawn to this spectacular sushi platter though.
Tuna and avocado rolls
Kampachi rolls with sugar snap and vibrant purple shiso were moreish and light, tasting just as good as they looked. Thick slices of tuna tataki were meltingly good, and avocado with tuna and black tobiko was also a striking combination.
For dessert, there were mochi rice dough balls of ice cream including the distinctive black sesame and green tea and flavours. Sakura-style-blossom sugar flowers were strewn prettily on the plate but for us the real rock star of the show was the preceding sushi selection.
Sushi proficiency certification
With the prestigious sushi proficiency certification placed proudly above the kitchen, it’s clear that the hard-earnt accolade is doing wonders for the produce flowing from these doors, continuing to draw a crowd of eager locals and sushi-lovers alike from far and wide.