One of my favourite things about living in an old city like London is little pieces of history everywhere you go. The hotels of London have seen history in the making, scandals, intrigue, celebrities, famous politicians and their fair share of royalty. One of London’s most enduring hotels is Hotel Café Royal, a hotel that has enjoyed an unbeatable location on Regent Street for the past 150 years.
In all that time these walls have seen Winston Churchill come in for his favourite steaks, stilton and champagne, Oscar Wilde enjoy the unparalleled wine selection and well as Mick Jagger, Elizabeth Taylor, Muhammad Ali and Diana, Princess of Wales, to name just a few. The hotel closed in 2008 and underwent extensive restoration, reopening in 2012 along with glittering new decor, brand new restaurants and a beautiful spa.
The restoration is in keeping with the history of the hotel and historical rooms retain the 1860s and 1920s style including some gorgeous art deco touches. The grand foyer has this magnificent Murano glass chandelier made by the famous Italian glassmaker Vistosi
But take a turn off the foyer and you’ll find the Oscar Wilde lounge, the very room that Oscar Wilde fell in love with Lord Alfred Douglas. With the beautiful mirrored panels, intricate ceiling and sparkling lights, it’s one of the most beautiful hotel restaurants I’ve ever seen. Back in the day its where David Bowie retired Ziggy Stardust and Mick Jagger, the Beatles and Elizabeth Taylor partied, today it is where the hotel’s award-winning afternoon tea is served.
Up a beautifully gilded staircase you’ll find this gorgeous stained glass window before turning on to our destination for the night; the hotel’s new restaurant, Laurent.
The restaurant itself is very much in keeping with the stylish, classic design of the rest of the hotel with the golden bar at the end of the room being the focal point. The space has been entirely redesigned by Italian architect and designer Piero Lissoni, who is also responsible for the beautiful foyer. The bar offers fine gins and whisky as well as inventive cocktails by Head of Bars & Beverages Fabio and Bar Manager Robbie.
Ordering up some cocktails (a peach bellini for me and a pear and champage cocktail for Mr S) we took a look at the menu which is based around a parilla grill for cooking meat and fish as well as a sushi bar.
After we ordered our waiter delivered some popovers to the table.
‘These are the signature popover of Chef Laurent Tourondel’ our waiter explained… ‘
Hang on a minute, I’ve had these before’ I replied.
There was no mistaking the light a fluffy popovers, a cross between bread and Yorkshire pudding, topped with Gouda and Cheddar and utterly, utterly addictive. It was when Mr S and I stayed and dined at LT Steak & Seafood whilst staying at a hotel called The Betsy in Miami. That was nearly four years ago and I still remember how amazing those popovers were – I’m so glad that we can now get them in London. Chef Laurent Tourondel was actually born in France where he trained before working in cities around the world. As well as this new London restaurant, and LT Steak & Seafood in Miami, he has numerous other restaurants in New York, Miami and Charlotte in North Carolina and as far afield as Hong Kong, Kazakhstan and the Caribbean.
Of course there was no doubt that we were ordering sushi and we selected the crispy lobster sushi roll with celery, scallion, yuzu tartar, old bay, tobiko, on recommendation of the waiter. Spicy tuna sushi with avocado, sriracha, puffed rice and finally yellow tail with jalapeño with yuzu guacamole, shiso, scallion, soy glaze which was my favourite. A selection with sashimi was beautifully fresh and cut perfectly. Less successful for me was the tuna gunkan which was slightly too thick for me.
From the grill menu we picked the octopus with jersey royals, lemon aioli Jersey Royals, lemon aioli, ‘nduja and cured olives. An option that can be so hit and miss but on this occasion was a big hit! Yes it was a lot of food but we ate every last bit… no regrets.
For the wine, the sommelier suggested a South African wine which complemented the meal perfectly. The wine cellar at Hotel Cafe Royal was once known as one of the best in the world – the cellar has now made way for the spa but the wine is still very carefully selected and inspired by the hotel itself.
Steak is set to the signature dish at Laurent as the chef has travelled far and wide to source the very best meat possible. I urged Mr S to try the USA Snake River Rib Eye, having tried it before myself at 45 Park Lane at a dinner hosted by legendary chef Wolfgang Puck. American Wagyu beef has slightly less fat than the luxurious Japanese counterpart – it’s totally a matter of taste but I’d suggest those that like very rich flavoursome meat to go for the Japanese Wagyu Kagoshima and if you prefer something lighter but still full of flavour opt for American. There’s also the option to stay closer to home with Scottish Aberdeen Angus Sirloin. The addition of butter on Mr S’s rib eye made it even richer – honestly a little too rich for me but he loved it.
There’s no shortage of choice when it comes to fish options either. Also beautifully cooked on the grill, my sea bass had a perfectly crispy skin and was served with delicious deep fried lemons.
This kind of feast demands no shortage of sides and we chose Hen of the Wood mushrooms with garlic parsley, courgettes with pesto and super green spinach to accompany the main courses. All were delicious and the simple flavours of the mushrooms off set the creaminess of the spinach and courgettes.
A dessert with a touch of show is always pleasing in an already thrilling restaurant such as this and we ordered hibiscus and red berry soufflé for two to share served with lime frozen yogurt. It’s presented table side and is actually a very light way to end the meal.
Over the course of the meal, our waiter offered to show us the Dome Penthouse, one of the signatures suites and one of the most luxurious in the hotel.
The penthouse can be opened up into three bedrooms, we only saw the main bedroom (in the dome itself) but were completely blown away by it. There’s a huge bedroom and living area, which be converted into a top party pad with a LED lighting and a DJ system.
The green Carrara marble bathroom was unlike anything I’ve seen with a feature oblong bath in the centre.
But best of all is a the wraparound terrace with views down St James…
Across to the famous screens of Piccadilly…
And right down Regent Street.
The terrace is beautifully furnished and would be perfect for a small party or the perfect way to seriously impress a date.
Mr S and I had a a really fantastic time at Laurent, the food is excellent but what really stands out is the service throughout the hotel. A big thank you for hosting us.
I was invited to review.