Where is the best place to dine in Central London?

Caxton Grill - St Ermins Hotel

Caxton Grill – St Ermins Hotel

The rather grand St Ermin’s Hotel in central London is the home of stylish dining spot The Caxton Grill. The hotel and its dazzling restaurant are firmly in the poshest side of town, steps from St James’s Park, Westminster and Buckingham Palace. The beautiful hotel sets the scene for the restaurant, setting high standards that The Caxton Grill easily meets.

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Bentley’s Sea Grill – Harrods

Bentley's Sea Grill

Bentley’s Sea Grill

Bentley’s on Swallow Street near Piccadilly Circus has been serving the masses since 2005 and is particularly well known for its oyster bar. A Richard Corrigan restaurant, there is also a formal dining area upstairs known as The Grill.

Such has been the success of Bentley’s, an offshoot recently opened in the food hall at Harrods. Known as Bentley’s Sea Grill, it operates a bar service with tall stools perched around the marble countertop. This is the latest addition to Harrods which already has a wealth of eating options including Galvin Demoiselle Petit Bistro.

Bentley's Sea Grill

Bentley’s Sea Grill

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The French Laundry at Harrods

The French Laundry at Harrods

The French Laundry at Harrods

The French Laundry at Harrods, the 10-day pop-up restaurant by six-Michelin starred Chef Thomas Keller (3 stars at The French Laundry, 3 stars at Per Se) was a project that was 18 months in the making. The idea was conceived in April 2010, and every detail has been meticulously planned, including the timing of the harvest at The French Laundry Yountville garden to ensure that the vegetables that were brought over for the pop-up would be perfect. Yes, lots of ingredients were flown in from the US to recreate a true French Laundry experience, but let’s not judge the food miles but the meal alone.

The pop-up restaurant occupies part of the Georgian Restaurant on the fourth floor of Harrods. Much has been done to recreate the feel of the original, from the sign at the front door to the clothes peg pinned to our table napkins. Crockery came from The French Laundry Yountville, and a number of the chefs and the service team were made up from a cross section of chefs and waiting staff from within The Thomas Keller Restaurant Group including The French Laundry and Per Se.

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Apsleys – Visit # 3

Note: Chefs Massimiliano Blasone and Marco Calenzo have now left the restaurant. Consequently this blog post may not reflect the current state of affairs at Apsleys.

Apsleys, the one Michelin starred Italian restaurant located in the Lanesborough Hotel, kindly invited me back to try their new spring menu. I went to Apsleys about six months ago for what was my second visit and had a glorious meal (for that blog post click here) and it was such an honour to be asked back again. At the helm is Executive chef Massimiliano Blasone, Sous chef Marco Calenzo, and restaurant manager Pasquale Cosmai. Apsleys is the sister restaurant to Heinz Beck’s three Michelin starred La Pergola in Rome.

We kicked the meal off with a wonderful selection of amuse bouches that thrilled. Kingfish sandwiched in sesame ‘waffles’ was a delight, with the wafer-thin texture of the buttery waffles contrasting well with the fish.

Sesame waffle with kingfish

Sesame waffle with kingfish

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Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

Dinner

Dinner

The most excited I’ve ever been about getting a restaurant reservation was when the people at El Bulli emailed me to say that I had secured a table. The excitement of getting a reservation at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at the Mandarin Oriental came close, except this time I managed to control my screams of euphoria. The restaurant receives about 6,000 phone calls a day and is now booked out until the end of June. The arrival of Dinner by Heston Blumenthal was highly anticipated and it has to be the hottest opening of 2011. It is so hot that reservations are being traded on ebay.

An Adam Tihany design, the restaurant is beautiful with dark wood panelling and leather furnishings. The previous occupant of this space was Foliage, which Tihany also designed. It’s airy and light, and the high ceilings give it an incredibly spacious feel. It’s also elegant but relaxed, and there’s a touch of mischievousness and fun to the room with the use of some cheeky jelly-mould lights. The kitchen is an open one providing diners with a look-in, but that’s if you don’t find yourself getting distracted by the fabulous views of Hyde Park.

The kitchen at Dinner

The kitchen at Dinner

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Sake no Hana: Flower of sake

When a restaurant boasts the name of Alan Yau behind it, one cannot help but have high expectations. Alan Yau is the man synonymous with the success of Hakkasan and Yauatcha, both Michelin star holders, and other well-known establishments such as Busaba Eathai, Wagamama and the recently-opened gorgeous Milanese bakery, Princi. Such is his Midas touch, it seems only just to have high expectations when stepping through the door of one of his restaurants. So it was that I went to dinner at Sake no Hana (Flower of Sake) last night, another Alan Yau offering, giddy with the weight of expectation. Add the money of owner Evgeny Lebedev, son of a Russian oligarch, and a location in the heart of Mayfair, and you would seemingly have a blend to induce one huge success story.

But for the privilege of such a pedigree, a monied backdrop and said location, comes a price. Case in point, the beer. £9.50. Yes you read right, nine pounds and fifty pence. Ok, it was good beer, Suntory premium malt (a winner of the Grand Gold Medal at Monde Selection for Three Consecutive Years), and admittedly not a kind you might readily obtain in London. But still: £9.50? It was the same price as my cocktail, the ‘Gandara Dream’ (Kumquats, Diplomatico Reserva rum, Don Julio Silver tequila, Umeshu plum liqueur, almond sugar and green tea), which as delicious as it was, was more ice than drink.

Softshell crab salad with wasabi sauce

Softshell crab salad with wasabi sauce

We started with a softshell crab salad with wasabi sauce (£10.50), although we had tried to start with two different scallop dishes: the prawn, scallop and lotus root katsu (£8), and the scallop and spring onion in miso mustard dressing (£8.50), only to be told that both the scallop dishes were unavailable. Huh? It was barely 7pm, and with Sake no Hana’s pricing levels and upmarket persona, this was all too disappointing.

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