The Palm Court (Park Lane Hotel)

Palm Court at Park Lane Hotel

Limited edition beer and gin based cocktails

7/10

The Palm Court is the central dining area in The Park Lane Hotel, and is replete with classic design features. The aesthetic leans heavily towards the art deco twenties, with a beautiful glass ceiling and touches of gold leaf. A harpist dutifully tickles the strings, and the pacified tone would suit an older generation suitably well. With such photogenic attributes, its no surprise that the Palm Court has been featured in television shows and movies including Poirot and The Golden Compass. It’s a bit like Maggie Smiths character in Downton Abbey – an eccentric personality from a bygone era clutching on to her traditions in as graceful a manner as possible. I do have to say that if you were to turn the lights up a little, you might see the wear and tear that decades of use have imparted.

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Cake Boy

Cake Boy afternoon tea

Can you call it an Afternoon Tea without scones?

6/10

Cake Boy is the London Café/Cookery school of Eric Lanlard, a celebrity pastry chef with a number of books and television show appearances under his belt. Located on the ground floor of a block of apartments in Battersea, Cake Boy is not the easiest venue to get to. Tubes tend to circumvent it so you’ll need to turn to a car, bus or (shudder) overground to get there. With the promise of free food, I successfully solicit the services of a certain car-rich colleague to make the trip.

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Kettners

Kettner's afternoon tea soho london

Afternoon tea: an affordable introduction to a delicious tradition

7/10

Established in 1867 and created from four Georgian townhouses, Kettners has a certain old school charm about it. Its high walls and elegant sash windows create a spacious set of downstairs dining areas, whilst upstairs is partitioned into private dining rooms. Gunmetal grey velvet upholstery, bronzed mirrors and delicate furnishings dress the interiors and provide a comfortable backdrop for a leisurely afternoon tea.

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Four to Eight

Four to Eight

Simply put: I like it a lot

8/10

Italian food is said to be one of the simplest with between four to eight ingredients per dish- thus the premise of our restaurant tonight. Wrought from the efforts of two Italian brothers, Gino and Leo, the restaurant Four to Eight sits on the site of their previous sandwich shop. This new venture is their first foray into serious dining, and they’re doing a really fabulous job of it. They’re both in the restaurant knee deep in the action, Gino flitting between bar and kitchen scrutinising each plate before it is served whilst Leo circles around the room making sure everyone is happy. I adore the passion and commitment to the cause and with so much effort clearly being put in, night after night, it’s not a surprise how great things are.

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Core

Core

Think TGIFs, except with a clubbier vibe 

5/10

Core is a city-based venue with a clubby kind of feel, and is cut from the same cloth as the likes of Tiger Tiger, TGIFs and Hard Rock Cafe. Its interior is quirky and boasts some fun features and a lot of seating, compensating perhaps for the lack of imagination when it comes to the food.

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Basement Sate

Basement Sate

How not to work a trend

2/10

The humble pudding is going through something of a revival in London. Pollen Street Social have their own exclusive dessert bar and there is also a new Pudding Bar in Soho. So far, so sweet. The concept of the speakeasy has also been recharged over the last few years, with the likes of my personal favourite, Nightjar. Basement Sate is a contender in a long list of imitations of a more glamourous era, centred on desserts and cocktails – unfortunately for us, it falls far short of the mark. Music blaring onto the street from an unmarked, wide-open door does not a speakeasy make – must try harder.

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The Rosebery at Mandarin Oriental

The Rosebery at Mandarin Oriental Afternoon Tea, Knightsbridge, London

Afternoon tea: glossy, vibrant and utterly without fault

9/10

The Rosebery recently opened in the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Knightsbridge, offering the newest afternoon tea yet. The venue is sprightly and fresh, situated in a set of airy Victorian rooms. Soaring windows offer views down on to Brompton road, whilst also serving to fill the space with delicious light. White walls reach high into a ceiling decorated with elaborate cornicing and flourishing medallions, but the features are neither stuffy nor overbearing. The launch of the Rosebery at the Mandarin Oriental has a particular symmetry, being that the space was once a tea room in the 1920s frequented by the most distinguished personas of the time, including Lord Rosebery. Against this rich tapestry is a luxe and modern interior full of contemporary pieces and plush seating.

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Villandry

Villandry

Really quite rubbish

4/10

The only reason I’m at Villandry tonight is because I’ve been sent a £50 voucher from the food fairies at Zomato. There are two branches of this brasserie-styled restaurant in London, and the one just south of Piccadilly Circus is our venue tonight. Truth be told, I haven’t really heard much at all about Villandry and I’m guessing that you haven’t either. All you really need to know is that it’s a bit crap, bar a few things – the bread, the building, and the service. The bread first – the foccacia is dotted with roasted tomatoes and sea salt, and the brown loaf has a delectable malty-moodiness to it. Our smiley waiters parade around with baskets full of it; with the benefit of hindsight comes the knowledge that I should have maxed out on the worthier carbs.

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Cigalon

Cigalon restaurant london

All the rustic charm of a small-town, without ever having to leave London

8/10

Provincial villages can be remarkable hubs of food and produce, the result of cement-free and unpolluted landscapes. The rustic mess of small-town cuisine can be had in many guises around London; one of the most honest coming from the kitchens of Cigalon. This Holborn based restaurant is rich in rural eccentricity, decorated with spindly olive trees, winding rattan and velvet seating. The comfort and space of the countryside is also replicated; the bosom of a generously proportioned booth provides both privacy and a sense of general wellbeing. From these pillowed confines, prepare to enjoy the splendour of food and wine from the southern belly of France.

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Oscar Wilde Bar at Hotel Café Royal

Afternoon tea at Oscar Wilde Bar Hotel Cafe Royal, London

Afternoon tea; the best yet, apart from the setting

8/10

Café Royal has an abundance of history, accumulated from its inception in 1865 to its refurbishment and rebirth as a 5* London Hotel. The premium location of the premises has remained the same, sat in the snug curve of Regents Street between Piccadilly and Oxford Circus. Apart the gold lettering on a maroon flag, there is no indication of the grandeur that lies within. The Oscar Wilde Bar (previously known as The Grill Room) has been painstakingly restored to its original Louis XVI detailing, and named after one of its many celebrity patrons. Throughout the years, Café Royal has played host to the musings of all manner of people, from Oscar Wilde to Lord Alfred Douglas, David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, to name but a few.

The Oscar Wilde Bar is a room covered in a diverting amount of gilded filigree. Every centimetre of it is festooned in with gold-leafed latticing that would not look out of place at Versailles. The ceiling boasts gilt flourishes and sepia frescos of cherubs and naked ladies, the decadence concentrated further with mirrors and marble pilasters. You can’t deny the opulence of it, and there is something in its indulgent nature that suites an afternoon tea which starts at £42 and rises to £85 per person with a glass of Dom Pérignon.

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