With the the growing trend for dispensing with formality and throwing out the white table clothes, restaurants in London are reinventing themselves and becoming more modern and fresh. Theo Randall at The Intercontinental Park Lane is one such place. I first ate there about seven years (pre-Mr S) and I really loved the food so I was excited to revisit and check out the recent changes at the Italian restaurant.
Though it was a while ago that I last visited, I’ll always remember good bread and it lived up to my memories. A delicious crisp toasted sourdough was topped with beautiful fresh tomatoes and the focaccia was lightly oiled with a good sprinkling of salt and rosemary.
Courgette fritti was also placed on the table as an opening snack and me and my dining companion, Lauren, couldn’t get enough of these. With a light coating of batter, the courgettes were crisp on the outside with just about the right amount of bite. So good that we had to get the waitress to take them away to avoid overeating before our three-course meal had even started.
Though I remembered the bread, the former interior of the restaurant hadn’t stuck in my mind – yes I am that obsessed with bread – but apparently it was much darker before. Brown leather has been dispensed with and replaced with light wooden tables, soft green banquettes and an open kitchen. It feels very fresh and modern, the perfect place for a girly catch up especially as it also has a cosy bar adjacent to the main dining room.
I love eating out with Lauren as we’ve got very similar taste in food and she’s happy to share. We chose a light Devon crab as one of our starters, a beautifully subtle dish paired very simply with fennel, dandelion and Sardinian Bottarga. With such simple plating and ingredients, the freshness of the crab was really able to sing and we very much enjoyed the dish.
Our other choice was the scallops. Now I hate a stingy scallop and these were nothing of the sort, big fat and juicy and perfectly cooked. It was served with a delicious salty combination of sage, chilli and a vegetable a little like turnip tops. While I enjoyed the vegetable accompaniment, I would have loved an extra punch of chilli to really enhance the flavour. We did, however really enjoy the fried polenta which was a great contrast in texture to the other ingredients.
While we were waiting for our next course, we had the pleasure of meeting the man himself, Theo Randall. And I must say, what a lovely guy and an honour to meet such an esteemed chef. Theo fell in love with Italian food during his childhood holidays to rural Italy. In his twenties he worked at the famous River Cafe in Hammersmith before setting up his own restaurant, Theo Randall at The Intercontinental, in 2006. Theo chatted to us about where he sources his ingredients and his passion for pasta, we also discovered that we share a love of artichokes, an ingredient which he incorporates into several of his dishes.
With several amazing pasta dishes on the menu it was hard to choose but we opted for one of my favourites, fresh tagliatelle with clams, sea bass, prawns and mussels in a tomato, parsley and white wine sauce. I really enjoyed how the seafood was prepared and the light, well-seasoned sauce but I would have preferred the pasta with slightly more bite to it. One thing we really appreciated was the great service, as the staff had noticed that we were sharing everything, they already divided the pasta into separate bowls to make it easier for us.
Next up was turbot with my beloved artichoke alla romana. My favourite savoury dish of the evening the wood roasted fish was cooked to perfection with a slightly buttery flavour, the flesh flaked apart beautifully. The lemon dressing added a good hit of acidity and capers balanced it out with saltiness. All in all a real stand out dish for me.
Don’t you just love it when a restaurant offers a dessert platter giving you the opportunity to try their best puddings? Or am I just greedy? Especially as the platter gave a very decent portion size of each of the four options. I found the chocolate cake with crema di mascarpone a bit too dense, better for me was the Amalfi lemon tart, with a beautifully crisp buttery base and smooth zesty filling. The platter is usually served with a cleansing clementine sorbet but we asked to exchange this for one of Lauren’s favourites, affogato – vanilla ice cream and chilled espresso. I’d never tried this dessert before but I loved the combination of the sweet ice cream with a bitter coffee…I’m a massive coffee lover. Finally on the plate was ricotta cheese cake with pears marinated in Marsala and vanilla which was enjoyable but wasn’t demolished by us as the tart and ice cream were.
Now I will acknowledge that hotel restaurants aren’t for everyone but the food and service at Theo Randall is lovely and we really liked the bar area too. It’s a great place for a girls catch-up, after work drinks or a relaxed dinner with friends.
Intercontinental London Park Lane
One Hamilton Place
020 7318 8747
Our dinner was complimentary.